The secular relation of the French Catholic Church in France with Eastern Churches was the theme of the speech delivered on October 14 at the Synod for the Middle East (ongoing at the Vatican) by cardinal André Vingt-Trois , archbishop of Paris, President of the French Bishops’ Conference, Ordinary for the faithful of the Eastern rite outside France without ordinaries of their own rite. Follows the integral speech. The experience of secular relations of the Catholic Church in France with the Eastern Churches is characterized by several strong points: we were careful to maintain the most support possible to the Churches in their countries: by implantation and the activities of many congregations for teaching and healthcare; through associations supported by our Latin parishes, notably l’Oeuvre d’Orient; by twinnings between dioceses or parishes. The large number of pilgrimages allow many of our faithful to discover the Eastern Catholic communities and to tie lasting knots with them. This support also occurs with our politicians so that they too may support the Christians in the Middle East, avoiding, in particular, the risk of creating “confessional territories” where types of ghettos would arise and in always keeping the door to emigration open to those who can no longer continue to live in their countries. The presence of living Catholic communities in all the Middle Eastern countries to ensure historical continuity in the same Holy Places. This also helps us in the experience that most Western nations know today: the encounter with Islam. In many Middle Eastern countries, Christians have lived in regions with a Muslim majority for the past centuries. Thus they have acquired a wisdom from the manner of facing these situations. On the other hand, cohabitation with a living Judaism, especially in Israel, can also contribute to the evolution of relations between Jews and Christians. Finally, the co-existence of separated Christian Churches in the places where our Church was born is a vigorous stimulation to progress in the ecumenical action. Many faithful, of the different Eastern Churches, have migrated here. They could meet in the communities where they find once more their own liturgy. We make an effort to help them develop the life of their communities which favors at the same time their fidelity to the faith in their Church and the memory of their cultural roots. They benefit from the active solidarity of those that preceded them and simplify their professional, social and cultural integration in French society. This integration is accompanied by fraternal relations with the Latin communities of our countries. This for the Latin Catholics is expanding their ecclesial and spiritual horizons. The discovery of Eastern liturgies and communities that live this can certainly help the Latin parishes to recognize a healthy pluralism in the expression of prayer. To conclude, I cannot avoid raising the question of pastoral assistance in the Eastern communities. In our country, we can see the firm rule by the Apostolic See: a priest from an Eastern Catholic Church who is married cannot receive the pastoral mission in Latin territories. And, apart from rare exceptions, we stick to this rule. The mobility of today’s society changes the understanding of the notion of “territory” and I think I know that other European countries are not subject to the same rule. Whatever happens, certain Patriarchal Churches are faced with ever greater difficulties in finding celibate priests for the service to their communities in “Latin” countries.
The address of card. Vingt-Trois at the Vatican Synod