In the hospitals and homes of a global family now fighting the coronavirus and praying together we are seeing God’s most important Cathedral of today and the missionary church of the future.
So insists Pope Francis’s recently appointed secretary general to the Synod of Catholic bishops, Maltese Bishop Mario Grech in a comprehensive interview published by La Civilta Cattolica (Oct 16th, 2020)
Strongly criticising the view that the life of the church has been ‘interrupted’ by the pandemic’s impact upon worship in church, Bishop Grech declared:
“I find it curious that many people have complained about not being able to receive communion and celebrate funerals in church, but not as many have worried about how to reconcile with God and neighbour, how to listen to and celebrate the Word of God and how to live out a life of service…”
“One cannot really meet Jesus without committing oneself to His Word. Concerning service, here’s a thought: Didn’t those doctors and nurses who risked their lives to stay close to the sick transform the hospital wards into other “cathedrals”? Service to others in their daily work, plagued by the demands of the health emergency was for Christians an effective way of expressing their faith, of reflecting a Church present in today’s world, and no longer a “sacristy Church,” withdrawn from the streets, or content to project the sacristy into the street.”
Bishop Grech insists that a new ecclesiology (understanding of ‘church’) is emerging in front of us – and must not be forgotten.
“It will be suicide if, after the pandemic, we return to the same pastoral models that we have practised until now. We spend enormous energy trying to convert secular society, but it is more important to convert ourselves to achieve the pastoral conversion of which Pope Francis often speaks.”
The Bishop went on to point to another consequence of the pandemic – how many families have become “creative in love”:
“This has included the way parents accompanied their youngsters in forms of home-schooling, the help offered to the elderly, combating loneliness, to the creation of spaces for prayer, and being available to the poorest.
This “suggests that the future of the Church lies here, namely, in rehabilitating the domestic Church and giving it more space, a Church-family consisting of a number of families-Church…If the domestic Church fails, the Church cannot exist. …The domestic Church is the key that opens horizons of hope!”
Acknowledging that in the past church references to the ‘domestic church’ were often simply ‘rhetoric’ Bishop Grech insisted that “the “domestic Church” must be oriented toward emerging from the home; therefore it must also be put in a position to assume its social and political responsibilities. As Pope Francis pointed out, God “has entrusted to the family not the responsibility for intimacy as an end in itself, but the exciting project of making the world ‘domestic.’”
“It is not the family that is subsidiary to the Church, but it is the Church that should be subsidiary to the family.”
Refuting any attempt to portray this vision of the future church as a departure from church teaching on the importance of the Eucharist, Bishop Grech insisted:
“It is undeniable that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life … but the Eucharist is not the only possibility that the Christian has to experience the mystery and to meet the Lord Jesus. Paul VI observed this well when he wrote that in the Eucharist “the presence of Christ is ‘real’ not by exclusion, as if the others were not ‘real.’”
In a reflection on the historical circumstances that gave rise to the diminishment of baptism and the common priesthood of all Christians, Bishop Grech closely echoed ACI’s own submissions to the Irish Bishops Conference in 2019:
“Theology and the value of pastoral care in the family seen as domestic Church took a negative turn in the fourth century, when the sacralization of priests and bishops took place, to the detriment of the common priesthood of baptism, which was beginning to lose its value. The more the institutionalisation of the Church advanced, the more the nature and charism of the family as a domestic Church diminished.”
For the complete interview with Bishop Mario Grech in Civilta Cattolica, click here.