As we mentioned a few days ago, the Holy Father has issued an Apostolic Letter motu proprio data, De concordia inter codices, amending the 1983 Code of Canon Law to bring certain provisions into line with the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. There has been some coverage of De concordia inter codices, which gives some important background.
Cindy Wooden, of Catholic News Service, has an article at the Catholic Herald. She notes that the motu proprio was the result of fifteen years of study and consultation. A note at the Vatican website, translating (apparently) an article by Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta in L’Osservatore Romano, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which informs the reader:
Indeed, to this there may be added the conviction that, wishing to harmonise the two Codes in the pastoral matters most in need of clarification, it was enough to limit the modifications to some texts of the Latin Code, without the need to touch the Oriental one. It is precisely this that is established by Pope Francis’ recent Motu Proprio, accepting the proposal to modify the canons approved in the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of 31 May 2012.
(Emphasis supplied.) Another note on the Vatican website implies that the drafting process involved revisions based upon comments from a wide range of experts:
The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, by means of a Commission of experts in oriental and Latin canon law, has identified the issues most in need of normative adjustment, and has drawn up a text sent to around thirty Consultors and experts throughout the world, as well as to the Authorities of the Latin Ordinariates for oriental faithful. Following an appraisal of the observations thus gathered, the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts approved a new text.
(Emphasis supplied.) It is interesting to observe that De concordia inter codices is the mirror image of Mitis iudex Dominus Iesus, which was apparently drafted nearly in secret by an ad hoc committee, without widespread consultation, and on a highly abbreviated timetable.
It is interesting to note that this expansive gesture to the Eastern Churches comes at a time when, perhaps, things are a little rough on that front. Earlier this summer, the formidable Sandro Magister wrote a long article about the treatment of the Eastern Churches under this pontificate:
But at home ecumenism is not to be found. Blow after blow, the Vatican congregation for Oriental Churches does nothing but dissipate what remains of important dioceses and institutions of the Byzantine Catholic rite, instead of reinforcing their identity.
The congregation is governed by Argentine cardinal Leonardo Sandri, who was trained in the secretariat of state and is assisted by the Jesuit Cyril Vasil, secretary, and by the Dominican Lorenzo Lorusso, undersecretary, both canonists and members of two religious orders that have nothing Eastern about them.
And the effects can be seen. This site has already given extensive coverage to the slap in the face inflicted by Rome on the Greek Orthodox Church last winter, by appointing as apostolic exarch of Athens Manuel Nin, a Catalan Benedictine monk who is therefore a Latin in Byzantine clothing, former rector of the Pontifical Greek College in Rome, which in the eyes of the Greeks is still the detested institution founded in 1577 to prepare Catholic missionaries to be sent to Hellas to convert the Orthodox:
And three months before there was the appointment, as president of the special commission for the liturgy at the congregation for Oriental Churches, of a liturgist who has never had any competence whatsoever on the Eastern rites: Piero Marini, former master of ceremonies for John Paul II and a disciple of that Annibale Bugnini whom all see – whether for him or against him – as the true architect of the postconciliar liturgical reforms of the Latin Church.
(Emphasis supplied and hyperlink omitted.) Magister goes on to discuss at length the precarious situation of the Italo-Albanian Catholics, heirs to the ancient Italo-Greek tradition (though the Italo-Albanian tradition began in earnest in the fifteenth century with migration by Albanians to Italy), both in their Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi and their Abbey of Grottaferrata.
And who could forget the recent spectacle of the Holy Father and the Patriarch of Moscow issuing a joint statement with oblique references to the Ukrainian Greek Catholics and Sviatoslav, the patriarch of Kiev, whose continuing existence is an affront to men like Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of the Moscow Patriarchate? Despite Sviatoslav’s position, it does not appear that he was consulted about the statement before it was issued. This was not exactly what one hopes to see, and one can imagine, given the perpetual hostilities between Kiev and Moscow, the heroic Catholics of Kiev felt some pain seeing the Pope cozy up to Moscow without, apparently, so much as a second thought for what that spectacle would mean to men and women who have suffered much to remain in communion with the See of Peter.
Indeed, in an interview following the release of the statement, Patriarch Sviatoslav noted:
It was officially reported that this document was the joint effort of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) from the Orthodox side and Cardinal Koch with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from the Catholic side. For a document that was intended to be not theological, but essentially socio-political, it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text. The mentioned Pontifical Council is competent in theological matters in relations with various Christian Churches and communities, but is no expert in matters of international politics, especially in delicate matters such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Thus, the intended character of the document was beyond their capabilities. This was exploited by the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is, first of all, the instrument of diplomacy and external politics of the Moscow Patriarchate. I would note that, as the Head of our Church, I am an official member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, nominated already by Pope Benedict. However, no one invited me to express my thoughts and so, essentially, as had already happened previously, they spoke about us without us, without giving us a voice.
(Emphasis supplied.) The whole interview with Sviatoslav is well worth reading. We note in passing that Sviatoslav is one of the most compelling and interesting men in the Church today, and a true pastor. (Would that all Latin bishops were like him.)
The upshot of all of this is that De concordia inter codices comes at a time when relations between the Latin church and the eastern churches, even the eastern churches in Italy, has not been at its best. Given the lengthy period of drafting and revision of the text that would become De concordia inter codices, we suspect that the document antedates the current rough patch. However, one may hope that the formal release of the motu proprio portends a new phase in those relations.