North America Bishops Congress

Bishops Expressing Unity of the Church

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Christus Dominus

 

  Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops

 

In these days especially bishops frequently are unable to fulfill their office effectively and fruitfully unless they develop a common effort involving constant growth in harmony and closeness of ties with other bishops.  Episcopal conferences already established in many nations have furnished outstanding proofs of a more fruitful apostolate.  Therefore, this sacred synod considers it to be supremely fitting that everywhere bishops belonging to the same nation or region form an association which would meet at fixed times.  Thus, when the insights of prudence and experience have been shared and views exchanged, there will emerge a holy union of energies in the service of the common good of the churches. 

 

·        The Relationship of Bishops to the Universal Church

·        Bishops and Their Particular Churches or Dioceses

·        Concerning Bishops Cooperating for the Common Good of Many Churches

 

 

Bishops Express Unity of the Church

The College of Bishops Reflects Both the Universality and Unity of the People of God  

 

1. The Bishops, which are the successors of the Apostles are united to one another". This is the doctrine regarding the collegiality of the Episcopate in the Church. Its basic foundation lies in the fact that in establishing his Church, Christ the Lord called the Twelve, whom he appointed Apostles and entrusted with the mission of preaching the Gospel and of giving pastoral governance to the Christian people. In this way he established the Church's "ministerial" structure. We see the Twelve Apostles as a corpus and a collegium of persons united one to the other by the love of Christ who placed them under Peter's authority when he said to him: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18). But that original group, having received the mission of preaching the Gospel until the end of time, had to have successors, who are precisely the Bishops. According to the Council, this succession reproduces the original structure of the College of the Twelve united among themselves by the will of Christ.

 

Episcopal collegiality fulfils the will of Christ

 

2. The Ecumenical Council does not present this doctrine as something new, except perhaps in its formulation, but as the content of a historical reality which receives and fulfils the will of Christ, as it comes to us in Tradition.

 

a) "Indeed, in the very ancient discipline", the Council says, "the Bishops installed throughout the whole world lived in communion with one another and in a bond of unity, charity and peace".

 

b) "Likewise the holding of Councils in order to settle conjointly, in a decision rendered balanced and equitable by the advice of many, all questions of major importance points clearly to the collegial character and structure of the Episcopal order, and the holding of Ecumenical Councils in the course of the centuries bears this out unmistakably".

 

c) Collegiality is "also indicated by the custom, dating from very early times, of summoning a number at Bishops to take part in the elevation of one newly chosen to the highest sacerdotal office. One is constituted a member of the Episcopal body in virtue of the sacramental consecration and by the hierarchical communion with the Head and members of the College".   

 

3. The College, we read again, "insofar as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the multiplicity and universality of the People of God, and of the unity of the flock of Christ, insofar as it is assembled under one Head".  In union with the Successor of Peter from the Western Rite and the Successor of Andrew from the Eastern Rite the entire College of Bishops exercises supreme authority over the universal Church.  However, it must also be kept in mind when we speak of the collegiality of the episcopate.  

 

Bishops have concern for universal Church

 

4. And again: "Collegial unity is also apparent in the mutual relations of each Bishop to individual Dioceses and with the universal Church". "Each Bishop represents his own Church, whereas all together, with the Congress, represent the whole Church in a bond of peace, love and unity".

 

For this reason the Bishops, "insofar as they are members of the Episcopal College and legitimate successors of the Apostles, by Christ's arrangement and decree, are bound to have such care and solicitude for the whole Church which, though it be not exercised by an act of jurisdiction, does for all that redound in an eminent degree to the advantage of the universal Church". "For all the Bishops have the obligation of fostering and safeguarding the unity of the faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to the whole Church, of schooling the faithful in a love of the whole Mystical Body of Christ and in a special way, of the poor, the suffering, and those who are undergoing persecution for the sake of justice ( Mt 5:10); finally, of promoting every type of active apostolate that is common to the whole Church, especially in order that the faith may increase and the light of truth may rise in its fullness on all men".

 

5. At this point the Council recalls: "It has come about through divine Providence that, in the course of time, different Churches set up in various places by the Apostles and their successors joined together in a multiplicity of organically united groups which, while safeguarding the unity of the faith and the unique divine structure of the universal Church have their own discipline, enjoy their own liturgical usage and inherit a theological and spiritual patrimony. Some of these, notably the ancient patriarchal Churches, as mothers in the faith, gave birth to other daughter-Churches, as it were, and down to our own days they are linked with these by bonds of a more intimate charity in what pertains to the sacramental life and in a mutual respect for rights) and obligations".

 

 

Statement of Faith

 We the Bishops of the North American Congress of Bishops hereby state and affirm our collective

beliefs:

 X        The Prominence of Holy Scripture (the concept that the Holy Bible contains the most communicable message of God's word to humankind, balanced by the pre-historical role of Holy Tradition) 

X        The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ

X        The Power of Prayer

X        The Wisdom and Direction of the Holy Apostles (Didache - http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-hoole.html)

X        The Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Fraternity of Bishops

X        The Holy Priesthood (ministry of the Word)

X        The Sanctity of the Lord’s Table (the Eucharist)

X        The Forgiveness of Sin

X        The Sanctity and Protection of Human Life at all Stages

X        The Holy State of Matrimony (Between a man and woman ONLY)

X        The Family as a “Little Church”

X        God as the Sole Creator of all "being," and Beings

X        The Presence of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

X        The Resurrection of the Dead

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth of all that is seen and unseen.

 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

 

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.

 

The Creed of Athanasius

 

The Athanasian Creed is that latest of the ecumenical creeds, dating back to the early dark ages. Though seldom used in worship, it is one of the clearest definitions of the Trinity and the incarnation ever written.

Whosoever will be saved,
before all things it is is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled,
without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity
in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son,
and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one,
the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son,
and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate,
and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible,
and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal,
and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals,
but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated,
but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty,
and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties,
but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God,
and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods,
but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord,
and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords,
but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge ever y
Person by Himself to be both God and Lord,
so we are forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, there be three Gods,
or three Lords.
The Father is made of none,
neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone,
not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father [and of the Son],
neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons;
one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or l ess
than another;
but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid,
the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved
must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation
that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ .
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess,
that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds;
and Man, of the Substance of His Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man,
of a reasonable soul in human flesh subsisting;
Equal to the Father, as touching His Godhead;
and inferior to the Father, as touching His Manhood.
Who, although He be God and Man,
yet He is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh,
but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance,
but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man,
so God and Man is one Christ.
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell,
rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God
Almighty,
from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise with their bodies
and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting;
and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully,
he cannot be saved.

                                                      Amen.

 

2010 Bishops College Clergy & Laity Symposium

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