Saturday, January 7, 2012

Metropolitan Chapter of Utrecht Installs a New Canon

Tonight  Father Dr Leen Engelbert Wijker will be installed  as a Canon in the Metropolitan Chapter of Utrecht during Vespers at the Cathedral Church of St. Gertrude. Dr. Wijker was elected for the position at the last Chapter meeting in Hilversum.

The Metropolitan Chapter is the first and oldest advisory body of the Archbishop of Utrecht and also responsible for the election of the Utrecht bishops. The course consists of at least five members and Dr Wijker the sixth member.

In 1122, with the Concordat of Worms, the Emperor's right of investiture was annulled, and the cathedral chapter of canons received the right to the election of the bishop. This was again confirmed in the Forth Lateran Council in 1215.

We congratulate Dr. Wijker on his installation!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Declaration of Autonomy: 101 Years of Fragmentation

On December 29th, 1910, Bishop Arnold Harris Mathew, Old Catholic Bishop of Great Britain declared autonomy from the continental Old Catholic Church, forming a 101 year (and counting) schism between the Union of Utrecht and his successors. Mathew announced 9 points of disagreement between his community and those of the Union of Utrecht:

  1. Mathew accepted the Council of Jerusalem in 1672 and the belief that all 7 Sacraments are necessary for salvation although not all 7must be received by each Christian. 
  2. Mathew stated that the Sacrament of  Reconciliation is necessary for the forgiveness of mortal sins committed after Baptism. 
  3. Mathew stated, the veneration of the Communion of Saints must be maintained and never lost.
  4. Matthew asserted that the Old Catholic Church cannot change the ancient liturgy and it must remain the same, although in the vernacular. Also, benediction must be retained. 
  5. Mathew claimed that praying for the Pope must be retained in the canon of the Mass.
  6. Mathew stated that the Eucharist should be celebrated daily. 
  7. Mathew stated that the use of holy images, statues, and relics must be maintained. 
  8. Mathew stated that the Eucharist should only be given to Catholics.
  9. Mathew claimed that fasting and abstinence must be retained. 

With this declaration, Mathew ceased to be Old Catholic and then Old Roman Catholic. This date is not a proud date or a feast, but a day of reflection for those who are his successors. Today, very few churches adhere to the declarations of Mathew, but most adhere to some aspects of it. The question for those who claim to be his successors is, are you Old Catholic or Old Roman Catholic? And if so, why? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Czech Old Catholic Christmas Message 2011

Dear sisters and brothers,
Christmas. Again, we open our hearts and listen to the message that speaks to us through the centuries, and yet is still the best news that you may hear: "Fear not, behold, bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be for all people. Today your Savior was born, Christ the Lord in the city of David. This will be a sign: You will find a baby in diapers, lying in a manger. "

Although this event occurred in the distant past, somewhere on the periphery of the world, but our faith may again and relive the night when God's time intersects with our human time and eternal God entered the world as a mortal man. God became one of us to bear his closeness and his love for us. He made it clear in a way that does not compare with anything.

A man who lost his due to his original Paradise home, one stripped of trust in God's friendship, unable to overcome the gears of guilt and fear for their existence, the bumbling life and all of its forces fighting for the faith in goodness, love and mercy, may suddenly look in the eyes of the Child, which came into his life by God. "When we see your Son, who was born to us today, we see you and we are captivated by love for the veil of the invisible God ..." - this expresses the Christmas liturgy.

At Christmas, we all keep in mind the holiday. Even people who do not want God, listen to a Christmas tune in a nice, quiet and idyllic atmosphere. The Christmas Gospel that we are accustomed to hear with such good news is reassuring, but we also considered many disturbing questions.:

Why do we, who, together with the shepherds of Bethlehem want to be approached by a heavenly revelation, to find a baby lying in a manger, for which there was not space under the roof of humans? What is this sign? God in a stable is easy to overlook, a sign of compassion, given to us by the ruler of the universe? How is it that God himself in Jesus came into his own, but his own received him not? What is the reason behind the mystery that although the Incarnation of God has occurred, why is it that our world is like there is no God in the heavens? Why did God issue the mercy of human folly and wickedness? And when we fear for the fate of Christianity in Europe, is it in fact that the world is actually afraid of a God?

The Saviour came into the world, with people going their own ways, unprepared to meet him. The people had for all times expected the coming of the Savior, but did not actually want or accept Him when he came.
Also, we celebrate Christmas in an environment in which the message of Jesus is often accompanied by neglect and indifference. There is plenty of folk creativity surrounding the event of the Incarnation of God, wrapped in tinsel to make His coming a harmless and meatless story. Even today, the coming Saviour is not given space in people's homes or in people's hearts, but they are hopelessly empty and longing for fulfillment. And maybe it's not just some strange and uninformed people before him not answering the door. Maybe with all of the distractions of everyday worries, we've forgotten the marvel at the angelic proclamation in Bethlehem, the night that God came towards men, and therefore came and stayed with us.

Many people, if they ever admit the existence of God, feel that God is a world away, he left because he is unwilling or unable to speak into our lives and our problems.

Christmas is a contrary message that existed once and for all time. Christmas is changing our lives and situations. When the angels said to the shepherds: "Fear not, behold I proclaim to you the great joy that will be for all people" , this is news for all who are bound by fear, insecurity and fear of the future. It is a message to those who are disappointed, who are at the heart of emptiness, with oppressive consciousness that his defeat on the cross was not able to remedy those in the dark alleys of life, even if only unconsciously, yearns to be loved, understood and accepted. The angel declared "Do not be afraid, " which became the refrain of all the great biblical stories, and now wants to reach people in distress, hopelessness and pessimism of our present.

Do not worry! Christ was born for those who are still not known to be his love. God is vulnerable, weak and defenseless as a child of Bethlehem, God is close, notable, solitary, who in his love is interest in all - for each of you. It is light, the light of Christmas, the shining night light in every darkness, a darkness that can not swallow the light. Do not expect dazzling lights that shine on ephemeral celebrities of our time. Christmas is happening in the hearts, where the light shines. My dear, I wish the grace of Christmas time to you in every situation, even in the darkest darkness may you find a light that enlightens every person that came into the world in Jesus Christ.

Slowly ending the year in which I was vouchsafed to thank the Lord for 40 years of priesthood and 60 years of life. I thank all my heart to you for your wishes and prayers. I thank Our Lord for you, for together we form the family of the Church, which He is the center and source of love and joy.
Blessed Christmas and God's protection and favor in the upcoming year and still you and your family!
Your brother,

ThMgr. Dušan Hejbal

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent supported project in Tanzania

Expansion of a hospital ward of the Anglican Sisters of St. Mary in Sayuni.

With the alms of the Old Catholic churches in Germany and the collections for missionary work, the Community of St. Mary of Nazareth and Calvary (CMM) received support in Tanzania this year. The Sisters operate a health post, in Sayuni. The churches of the Union of Utrecht have been working for years to support the work of the Anglican Sisters in East Africa. The number of treated patients has increased rapidly in recent years, reports of Dr. Max-Beat Flückiger from Bern, who manages the project on behalf of the International Old Catholic diaconate. This also meant a greater demand for medicines and supplies.

Now the dispensary will be expanded into a hospital ward, thanks to donations and the hard work of the African Sisters: Cecilia, Anjelina, and Mariamu who are trained and experienced nurses. The development and supply of medicines was funded with 18,000 euros from a German Advent alms.

Address: The Convent, Kilimani, SLP 502, Masasi, Tanzania
Tel: +255-(59)251 0126

Friday, December 9, 2011

Old Catholic Church of America Feast Day: a lesson to be learned

Bishop Francis Xavier Resch

Bishop Carfora consecrated Francis Resch as bishop on December 8, 1940 who eventually became the archbishop of the Old Catholic Church of America (not a member or in communion with the Union of Utrecht).

Francis Resch qualified for the priesthood under Bishop Paul Francis Cope who ordained him March 5, 1939. Bishop Cope was consecrated by Archbishop James Bartholomew Banks of London who came specifically for that purpose to America and thus the Old Catholic Church of America was officially launched in May 1925. Bishop Banks was consecrated in 1922 by Bishop Willoughby and Willoughby in 1914 by Bishop Arnold Harris Mathew. 

As an Old Catholic priest, Father Resch was anxious to promote the growth and impact of the Church. Bishop Cope was, in the new priest's opinion, too conservative and deliberate, so yielding to the influences brought to bear upon him by Carforian clergy, withdrew from Cope's jurisdiction to that of Bishop Carfora. He describes this in a letter dated August 19, 1942 to Father Charles Bauer of Chicago:
"The growth of the church was very slow because of the Archbishop's great care and solicitude against taking in men who were not worthy of the trust. He hesitated taking men into the church until I came along . . . but because his hesitancy to expand and reach out, I withdrew and went over to the North American Old Roman Catholic Church. I was consecrated a bishop in that church by Carfora. I soon learned that I had made a great mistake in joining that church. I went back to Archbishop Cope, to bask again in the sunshine of a saintly man, a man of whom anyone could be proud, After coming back, he told me that he had intended to consecrate me to the bishopric and prevailed upon me to accept the office of auxiliary bishop, which I did. The Archbishop is very conscientious, and he has kept the church free from all evil influences."
Accepting Carfora's consecration of Resch as valid, Cope appointed Resch his auxiliary on June 15, 1941. He was insistent that the church distinguish itself as legitimately and theologically Old Catholic: 
"There are at the present time so many of the independent churches that it is hard to distinguish one from the other. There is only one way to know the Old Catholic Church of America and to distinguish it from the others, and that is by its purity of purpose, it honesty and its upright Christian polity." 
And again 
"We want to guard against Carforism. Our Church is clean and pure. Every man is a gentleman. Every man is a priest, a shepherd of souls. The Church is young and small but it is holy and without spot. The size of the church is less important than the nature and kind of clergy it possesses. We teach and believe all that ancient and historic Catholic Christendom teaches."
The Carforism which Bishop Cope wrote about was Carfora's policy of ordaining and consecrating clergy without formation, seminary, or laity who are calling for the ordination.  Fr. Henry Carfora had originally come from Italy as a Roman priest to work with the poor in America but found his work hampered by undue restrictions from his superiors and so left the Roman communion. He established several parishes in the United States and, being a volatile man, often embroiled himself in quarrels and squabbles concerning jurisdiction and church polity with his clergy. It seems that instead of taking the time and patience to work out difficulties, he would discover men with whom he thought he could work better and so would ordain or consecrate them bishops to supply clergy to his latest endeavors, often ignoring earlier efforts and the men he had ordained. Bishop Carfora was never averse to doing publicly that which tact would require be done privately and as a result the whole world would be a bemused spectator. This gave rise to many speculations about his work and the Old Catholic Church here in the United States which no doubt contributed to many of the problems encountered by Old Catholicism in its efforts to establish itself in the new country.

Today in America, there are still too many bishops following the spirit of Carfora versus the vision and practices of Bishops Cope and Resch. May all good souls find the courage to associate themselves with apostolic faiths which seek holiness and truth versus numbers and self promotion. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Two Old Catholic Books Released

Old Catholic and Philippine Independent Ecclesiologies in History

This study researches the historical development of the self-understanding of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Throughout the 20th century, both churches have been in a developing relationship with each other, resulting in full communion in 1965. In the same time period, both churches developed an ecclesiological self-understanding in which an ecclesiology of the national church gradually gave way to an ecclesiology of the local church. By outlining this development for each of these two churches and comparing the developments, the study gives insight both into the individual development of the two churches involved and shows how these developments relate to each other. In this way, the study presents a new historical portrait of these churches and their self-understanding. 
The book costs $217 USD or €159.00. If you are interested in the book but cannot afford it, consider recommending this book to your local library. You can do that from this website: Brill
Peter-Ben Smit, Ph.D. (2005) in Theology, University of Bern; Habilitation (2009) in Theology, University of Bern; Th.D. in Anglican Studies (2011), General Theological Seminary, New York City, is Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at VU University Amsterdam, Professor of Early Catholic Ecclesiology and Old Catholicism at Utrecht University, and Assistant Rector of the Old Catholic Parish of Amsterdam.

No. 49 Canon Law in Ecclesiological Context

On Friday December 2  the Center for Religion and Law at the Free University and the Old Catholic Seminary organized a Friday afternoon reading about the new book by Prof. J. Hallebeek: Canon law in ecclesiological context. An introduction to the canon law of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands (Sliedrecht / Amersfoort: Book Merwe / Old Catholic Central Book House, 2011) (Publication Series Old Catholic Seminary 49). The meeting starts at 15:00 pm in BV-0H21 (Bellevue Building, next to the Main Building), De Boelelaan, Amsterdam. 
Canon Law in the Context of ecclesiological by Prof. J. Hallebeek. This book provides an introduction to the canon law of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands (290 pages, illustrated). Professor Brook Hall's syllabus of Canon Law  over 25 years has grown into a handbook, which explains the historical context and identity of the Old Catholic church law. A very interesting and readable edition!
The book is written in Dutch and € 27.95 which can be purchased with an international credit card at: Bookstore
Prof. Jan Hallebeek is Professor of European Law at the Faculty of Law of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and professor of canon law at the Old Catholic Seminary. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where are the members of the Church of Christ in this time?

As we celebrate 140 years of the Old Catholic Church in Austria we ask, "Where is Christ's church heading at this time?" This question is a theme of our anniversary, it is a question to which - first of all - there is no clear answer, but it is a question to be asked, especially in this day and age. Yes, of course the direction of the church has many divergent forces. It often seems as if the breath of the Holy Spirit leads the ship of the church with no clear direction. There are numerous conferences and discussions in the ecumenical field, but especially in the Utrecht Union of Old Catholic Churches. This theme also affects the members of the church and especially the church leaders, bishops and synods.

Our question actually provokes another question: Where are the members of the Church of Christ in this time, What direction do the individual church members see in the church? As in all areas, we humans have very different opinions, and especially when it comes to the church and faith. Perhaps it is clear, when the person to the right and left of us in the pews pray the Creed. Some of them are willing profess it, because it is among the venerable treasures of our Church. Some people say it because it is long life habit, because - without thinking about why - we feel it just belongs to a complete service. Others are divided. Some people may struggle with the first sentence,  Creator of heaven and earth, and others may question the virgin birth, so what do we do? Still others find their anger that they should be constantly tied to something that is foreign to them, while others may hold the Creed as an internal discipline. And still others say even in the silence as they stand well outside the boundaries of the Church, when the creed is the connection among the Christians.

Answers to the question "Where is the Church of Christ in this time?" Could therefore postulate depend on the different opinions of church members and the claim: "It is the responsibility of the Church to conform to the present time, the modern people and their way of life and clean up old records and phrases - in short: The Church of our needs has to satisfy today'. When the Pope visited Germany last month was indeed exactly such a claim of the church members which had been formulated against the Pope: the Church has the needs of people today to satisfy! Satisfy the needs, sounds quite cheap and one-sided. The church leaders must look at each case to maintain dialogue with the church and members. But the church is not man-made institution, not a club. The church is not meant to satisfy needs, but to celebrate, especially mysteries. Here, dear sisters and brothers, we are at the heart of the matter. And it's useful to be aware, particularly in connection with our celebration of it. If we humans ask "Where is the Church,"  we express the need for a guide. We are looking for guidance during the confusion of our time and our world.

We are now call to mind that we are celebrating in Austria the 140 years the Old Catholic Church, and bring to attention just one of the most important landmarks of the church, the church service. In the celebration of God's Word and the Eucharist, prayer and singing of songs we actually live spirituality. The spirituality meets a need of many people of our time. This is evidenced by the bookstore shelves today, there are a lot of books on spiritual topics. What is important now, however, is that we not only to read such books, but to live the spirituality with other people in the community of worship and the whole church and celebrate this faith.

There are people who criticize and complain, that the service is always the same. This is true, so we can train our ability to focus and spirituality, much like we do for the mental and physical fitness. But the proclamation of the Gospel message each time draws attention to another aspect. The readings also show for today's feast:

There is this famous and popular Psalm 23 in which the Lord is represented as a shepherd who cares for us, protects us in our lives, comforts us in dark and difficult times, and strengthens, refreshes and nourishes our souls, so that we lack nothing and we are safe in it. In this psalm also appears the signs by which we have earlier expressed our need. It is the shepherd himself in verse 3 it says: "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name" The Good Shepherd shows us the way and lead us so that our lives can succeed. But we must keep asking ourselves whether we really move forward on this right path, if we let ourselves be guided by the shepherd, if we have learned to listen to his voice.

Even the teachers of the law, we meet in Luke's Gospel for today's feast is, the question of whether he is on the right path. With his question, what he must do to gain eternal life, but he puts Jesus to the test. This question, however, is asked in return: "What does the Law say? What do you read there? Immediately comes the detailed response of the teacher of the Law: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart and soul, with all your strength and all thy mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The teachers of the law therefore knows perfectly well where the meaning of life can be found: in the love of God, to themselves and to others. All people know that a meaningful life has something to do with love. If we were to ask random people how to imagine a meaningful and happy life, then hardly anybody's money, external beauty and the power would be at the center. We all know that true happiness is only in the gift-giving and love and can be found in healthy, redemptive relationships. The commandment of love is all that is written into the human heart.

So what is direction of Church of Christ? Or: Where is the leadership of the Church of Christ at this time? When it comes to the church it is not merely a secular society, a club, but about the church, which is the Body of Christ, then the answer is clear. The Church as a whole, its members, part of the Body of Christ must be guided in all their actions, thoughts and feelings to the Lord the Church of Jesus Christ. He is the guide for us. It indicates the direction. We must follow him. He told us: "I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh to the Father except through me" (Jn 14, 6).

+ Fritz-René Müller
Bishop Emeritus of the Old Catholic Church of Switzerland

[Translated poorly by Fr. Jakob Lazarus. It is not a good translation but it was too good of a homily not to attempt a translation]