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Friday, 25 March 2011

Can we tell someone not to become a Catholic?


Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald has interviewed Archbishop Mennini, the new Apostolic Nuncio for the UK. There is much of interest concerning the relationship of the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church. Archbishop Mennini served as Nuncio to the Russian Federation and therefore had much experience of relations with the Orthodox.

The Nuncio had the difficult task of trying to persuade the Orthodox that the Holy Father had great esteem and love for them. He worked hard to establish good relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox, using especially the approach of friendly visiting and conversation. He was particularly involved in an initiative which enabled Russian Orthodox students to study in Rome.

In such delicate diplomacy it is important to dispel the impression that the Catholic Church is engaged in an aggressive plan of domination which would undervalue or attempt to obliterate legitimate cultural and spiritual traditions of a people who have professed orthodox Christianity and preserved the heritage of the Fathers in many respects in doctrine and liturgy.

Nevertheless, it is surprising and, I must say with the deepest respect, disconcerting to read His Grace's advice to an Orthodox seminarian working with him:
[...] at the nunciature there was also a young [Orthodox] seminarian who had stopped studying in order to make some money. I would tell him quite often: “You must not become a Catholic. You have to keep your faith in order to better serve your Church. Now you know us you can dream about going to Rome. You can go to Rome one day in order to study but you should remain a Russian Orthodox.”
Surely we can never say to someone that they must not become a Catholic?
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