Friday, 18 June 2010

The Voice of... Pope Leo XIII (Part XXIX)

On 20th November, 1901, Pope Leo XIII issued his Encyclical Urbanitatis Veteris to the Archbishops and Bishops of the Latin Church in Greece on the foundation of a Seminary in Athens:

2. Moreover, if We are to speak of Christian issues, the Greek practice of the sacraments has always been approved by Us: in the ceremonies and sacred rites which Greece takes care to preserve spotless, as they have been received from their ancestors, We have always paid reverence to this image of ancient custom and majesty joined with variety. And since it is both right and expedient that these rites should remain as incorrupt as they are, We have restored to its original plan and pristine form the Roman College, named after Athanasius the Great, for students of the Greek rite. Likewise the reverence due to the Fathers and Doctors which Greece has produced, and they were by God's benevolence many and great, has only increased with time. Practically from the beginning of Our Pontificate, We have determined to give greater honor to Cyril and Methodius. It has been Our desire, led by devotion, to make better known from east to west the virtues and deeds of both these men so that they, deserving of a universal Catholic name, may be more reverently cherished by Catholics everywhere.

3. Moreover we are delighted to no little degree by those of Our predecessors to whom Greece gave birth and race, and frequently We recall how wisely they aided and abetted the Christian Church as it progressed through hard and difficult times in those days. How bravely most of them, as Anacletus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, after accomplishing great labors, underwent martyrdom. Although, to tell the truth, We scarcely ever recall the Popes of Greek origin without grief and longing because of the great loss brought about by the misfortune of later centuries. We refer to that ancient union, free from discord, by which Greeks and Latins were held together for their mutual profit when that part of the earth which had produced Socrates and Plato often provided the Supreme Pontiffs. The sharing of man and great blessings would have remained if concord had remained.

4. However, in no way should our spirits lose courage by recalling ancient memories, but rather be inspired to salutary vigilance, to fruitful labors. Continue to exercise your episcopal duty skillfully, as indeed you do: labor so that whoever obeys your sacred authority may everyday be more aware of what the profession of the Catholic faith demands, and learn from your example to unite the proper love of their country with a love and zeal for their holy faith. As for Our part, We will be zealous to defend, preserve, and strengthen the Catholicism in your midst with all possible labor and exertion. We know full well the great role played for the protection of morals, for civil discipline, and for the very glory of the Catholic name by the education of souls and the practice of the arts of the mind. For this reason, We founded some years ago a college at Athens in which Catholic youth might have the opportunity to give themselves to letters and, in particular, learn the language which at the hands of Homer and Demosthenes produced such splendor. Recently your joint letter of 9 September urges the introduction there of something similar which would look to the education of young clerics. You have Our agreement and consent; to be sure We judge it most useful and most opportune that that house of letters at Athens, which We have mentioned, be accessible also to students of sacred things. There they may give themselves over to the practice of more refined humane studies, and not be permitted to come into contact with theology or philosophy before they have thoroughly learned their ancestral tongue and literature in their own chief city. By this means they will better protect the dignity of their vocation and will carry out more usefully their ministry. Therefore We have willingly taken up your suggestion to establish such a seminary for young clerics of the Latin rite, but of Greek birth, as well as other easterners of the Greek tongue. At another time in a letter, We will describe the plan of the whole enterprise and the regulating principles of the institution.