Intervention of Archmandrite Robert L. STERN, General Secretary of the "Catholic Near
East Welfare Association" (C.N.E.W.A.) (USA)
“Church” has many meanings. The Church's mystery can be described using “models”,
none of which is adequate to describe it. We use “models”, whether conscious of it
or not. The early church saw unity in terms of “pax et communio”. The church is held
together by the Holy Spirit and personal bonds among its members, nurtured by communication.
This model is echoed in the internet. The church as a “communio” is a personal communication
network in the Spirit. Models affect decisions: The limitation of the jurisdiction
of Eastern heads of churches “outside” their homelands presumes a geographic model;
if a personal network, this is not appropriate. In the model of network, many churches
in the same territory is normal, and rivalries and attempts to proselytize or dominate
are inappropriate. Canon law favors a geographic notion of church; although people
live“in” a parish, in urban settings they choose their own. Emigration is similar:
from the geographic view, we see traditional Christian populations diminish, but in
the personal perspective we celebrate Christians wherever they choose to be. “Communio”
grows with increasing and deeper personal communication, as do interreligious relations.