– Vol. IV, No. 9: February 1999
Vatican and Australian Bishops Issue Joint Declaration
on Key Faith Issues
In an unprecedented example of the authentic collegiality called for by the Pope’s recent encyclical Apostolos Suos and other recent Vatican instructions and letters, the Australian bishops and six Vatican dicasteries (curial offices) jointly issued a major teaching document December 14, 1998.
The Final Declaration of the Interdicasterial Meeting of the Roman Curia with a Representation of Bishops from the Australian Episcopal Conference was signed by six Australian bishops, including Edward Cardinal Clancy, president of the Australian bishops’ conference, and by the heads of six major Vatican dicasteries: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Jorge Cardinal Medina Estévez of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves of the Congregation for Bishops; Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos of the Congregation for Clergy; Eduardo Cardinal Martínez Somalo of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life; and Pio Cardinal Laghi of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The Declaration was the result of meetings between fifteen Australian bishops and representatives of the six Vatican dicasteries held at Pope John Paul II’s request November 17-20, 1998, in connection with the ad limina visit of the Australian bishops and on the occasion of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania.
The Declaration’s eight sections address the situation of the Church in Australia, the bishop, the priest, consecrated persons, the Liturgy, and education and evangelization. "Many of the issues discussed are problems that are found in other parts of the Church throughout the world", as well as in Australia, the Introduction notes.
Echoing the recent papal encyclical, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), the Declaration addresses a crisis of faith that "has as its basis … a crisis concerning the ability to know the truth." Elements of this worldwide crisis are:
- "a weakening of faith in eternal life, replaced by such things as social utopias and re-incarnation" (II, 4)
- a "crisis in Christology" in which Jesus is transformed into a "prophet of humanity", caused in part by "feminist scholarship" which can lead to "a rejection of the privileged place given to the scriptural language describing the Trinity and to Jesus’ own teaching" (II, 5)
- "challenges to Christian anthropology" visible both in extreme individualism which "elevates the individual conscience to the level of an absolute," and in "certain forms of feminism which express an anthropology profoundly different from classical anthropology" (II, 6)
In response, the Declaration reaffirms the centrality of the priest "despite the many attempts to remove the figure of the priest from the center of the lives of believers". It stresses collegial union between the pope and bishops and states that "no pastoral solution can be so called that is not flowing from God’s Revelation as this is interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church".
Liturgy, including translations of liturgical texts, was a major topic.
click for a text of Chapter VI, "The Sacred Liturgy and the Sacraments", of the Final Declaration of the Interdicasterial/Australian Meeting