Cardinal Ricard's Statement on the Agreement
Cardinal Ricard presents the meaning and implications of the agreement signed with the Institute of the Good Shepherd
On Thursday 1st February, there were signed a decree erecting in Bordeaux a personal parish and an agreement entrusting this personal parish to the Institute of the Good Shepherd.
The Code of Canon Law speaks of a personal parish in these terms: “As a general rule, a parish shall be territorial, that is it will include all the faithful of a given territory; but where it is useful, personal parishes shall be established, defined by the rite, the language, the nationality, of the faithful of a territory, and indeed by any other characteristic.”
This personal parish which is not territorial, encompasses some faithful who wish to celebrate the liturgy with the liturgical books in force in 1962, It takes its place among the other communities where this liturgy is celebrated in union with the Archbishop: the chapels of Christ the Redeemer (at Talence), St. Germain (at Auros), and the Church of St. Bruno (in Bordeaux.) This parish has its seat at the Church of St. Eloi, which is placed at its disposal by the Diocese. It is entrusted to the Institute of the Good Shepherd, a society of apostolic life of pontifical right, officially erected by Rome on 8th September last.
The time is come
This decision, described in my editorial in L’Acquitaine of 6th October, 2006, was preceded by a consultation of the Council of Priests and of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. Questions have been asked, and reservations expressed. The contacts undertaken, meetings with the members of the Institute and its Superior General, difficulties surmounted, a personal letter which Father Laguérie addressed to me, wishing, after a number of years of polemics, to renew more fraternal relations with the Diocese, have convinced me that the time has come to sign an agreement with the Institute. This, in parallel with the recognition of the Institute by Rome, is ad experimentum. It will be reviewed after five years, and the situation will be assessed each by the two parties.
Towards fraternal communion
The signature of this agreement is not merely an administrative act, nor one made reluctantly. It is the expression of a desire of welcome and communion in the Diocese of Bordeaux with the priests and faithful who wish to recover full communion with the See of Rome. We must recall that we are of the same family, called by grace to take our places as the poor at the table of the Lord. During the celebration of the Eucharist, I often address this prayer to the Father: “Humbly, we ask that, partaking in the body and blood of Christ, we may be gathered by the Holy Spirit into one single body.” No-one is the owner of the Church. In a reconciliation according to the Gospel, no-one is the conqueror or the vanquished; without concession or condition, there is a fraternal communion, a welcome in the love of Christ, mutually.
A task to be accomplished
Certainly, this communion has, in the nature of the agreement signed, an institutional dimension: this parish has the same rights and duties as the other parishes of the diocese, such as are defined by our diocesan statutes and the universal law of the Church. But this communion must also be lived by fraternal links, for, if it is a fruit of the Spirit, it is also a task to be accomplished, with which must comport mutual knowledge, communication, exchange and dialogue. At the suggestion of the Council of Priests, I have decided on the creation of a commission of dialogue (from five to seven persons) which will be in constant contact with this person entrusted to the Institute of the Good Shepherd, and will assist with a better mutual awareness.
The deepening understanding of the Second Vatican Council
We know well that it is not only the liturgical question which has hitherto been the cause of divisions in the Church, but more generally a disagreement about the doctrinal and pastoral authority of the Second Vatican Council, and about the reception of its texts. The welcome given by Rome to the priests of the Institute has not made light of this question. This still remains relevant. We must not hide this. Fraternal communion does not erode this fact. During the creation of the Institute of the Good Shepherd at Rome, on 8th September last, the priests of this Institute have declared [that they], “accept the doctrine contained in no. 25 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council on the Magisterium of the Church and the adherence which is due to it.” They have also agreed to clarify that, “Concerning certain points taught by the Second Vatican Council or concerning the subsequent reforms of the liturgy or of the law, and which seem to us difficult to reconcile with Tradition, we commit ourselves to a positive attitude of study and of communion with the Apostolic See, avoiding all polemic.” (Act of adherence.) It is therefore possible, in fidelity to the present Magisterium, to be able to speak with the members of the Institute and with the faithful who associate with them, concerning certain points which they find difficult about the Second Vatican Council. The truth of communion has this price.
The Second Vatican Council, situated within the whole tradition of the Church, is for us, as Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have said, a “compass” for our ecclesial journey. Next year, I have proposed to our whole diocese four great catecheses for adults on the four great insights of this Council. I hope that they will be the occasion, without making light of our differences, of a calm reflection and of a respectful exchange among all.
A communion for mission
Let us not forget in the end that our communion is at the service of our mission. We are confronted by some terrible challenges: how to proclaim the Gospel today to those who do not know it? How to transmit the Christian faith to generations which come into a largely secularized society? As I have already said last October, “We need to unite our forces, all our forces, and share our experiences. We are called to live the same apostolic adventure. Some days, the sea can seem strong. The ship of the Church is submerged in it. But let us not fear! Let us listen to Christ saying to us: “Men of little faith, why have you doubted? Do you not know that I am with you in the boat until the end of the ages?”
It is against this horizon of communion and mission that we must assess what is at stake in the agreement which has just been signed.
Bordeaux, the 2nd February, 2007,
On the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
Jean-Pierre Cardinal RICARD
Archbishop of Bordeaux
Bishop of Bazas