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Intervention of Card. William Joseph LEVADA, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (VATICAN CITY)



My intervention will focus on the notion of the living Tradition of the Church as taught in the Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council, and on the understanding of the role of the Pope in the Apostolic Tradition, with reference to no. 78 of the Instrumentum laboris.
In Dei Verbum n. 9, the Council taught that “the Tradition that comes from the Apostles makes progress in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth of insight into the realities and words that are passed on.” As Blessed John Henry Newman, beatified in England last month, reminds us, this living Tradition knows a true development of doctrine in order to respond to new questions raised throughout the two millennia of the Church's history as the Communion of the Lord's disciples. Cardinal Newman, through his study of the Fathers of the Patristic age and of the first Ecumenical Councils, found precisely the living Tradition that led him to embrace the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church.
Examples of this development have not been absent from our discussions at this Synod: Think of the Declaration Nostra Aetate, which provides a new basis for today's relations with Jews and Muslims. Think too about the Synod discussion's references to religious liberty and freedom of conscience, which take their queue from the Council' s Declaration Dignitatis humanae. Pope Benedict XVI has made his own contribution to this ongoing development with his many interventions on behalf of the necessary interaction of faith and reason in political and public discourse, arguing with conviction that the secular or “lay” modern state needs the important voice of religion to ensure its ethical compass. In his insightful application of the teachings of Vatican II, he has insisted on the need for continuity with the Tradition as the condition of a true and faithful understanding of the Council's teaching, and hence of the development of doctrine.
These observations can be helpful when we consider the Church's teaching about the Roman Pontiff, the Bishop of Rome. This doctrine too has undergone a unique trajectory of development since Jesus proclaimed “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). Several Synod Fathers have made reference to the citation from the 1995 Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, about which the lnstrumentum laboris says, “Pope John Paul II voiced the responsibility of seeking to 'find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission' and keeping in mind the dual Latin and Eastern canonical tradition, would nonetheless be 'open to a new situation'.” (n. 78)

Subsequently the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sponsored a theological symposium to consider in greater detail those aspects of the papacy that are essential to the faith of the Church. In addition to publishing the acts of this symposium, the Congregation also issued its 1998 document on the question, called The Primacy of Peter in the Mystery of the Church.
More recently our Congregation has been considering a convocation of the Doctrinal Commissions of the Synods and Episcopal Conferences of the Eastern and Oriental Churches sui iuris to discuss doctrinal issues of mutual concern. In this context I would envision a useful study and exchange of views about how the ministry of the Successor of Peter, with its essential doctrinal characteristics, could be exercised in different ways, according to the diverse needs of times and places. This remains a chapter of ecclesiology to be further explored and completed.
Such theological reflection, however, does not supplant the vital testimony of the Catholics of the Middle East to their Orthodox and Muslim brethren about how Church doctrine develops in the living Apostolic Tradition, guided by Christ's gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church's Magisterium in every age. This Magisterium necessarily includes the role of the Pope as head of the Apostolic College of Bishops, together with Christ's commission to confirm his brethren in the unity of faith (cf. Lk 22:32) so that “all may be one” (Jn 17:21).

[00166-02.03] [IN106] [Original text: English]




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