Eastern Orthodox liturgy

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Question from Brad on 5/27/2008:

This is not really a question as much as a response to a previous answer given on 4/28/08 regarding SSPX. I have no idea what SSPX is but the response stated that "Eastern Orthodox liturgies are extremely beautiful, but I daresay we would agree that Catholics ordinarily should not attend...."

Indeed, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is very beautiful, but your advice that Catholics should not attend is misplaced. Rather, occasional attendance at Orthodox services should be commended and encouraged in the name of Church unity. As both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have stated, we are branches of the same holy, catholic and apostolic Church and our connection is profound.

Although we are no longer in full communion we must pray that the day will soon come that full communion is once again realized. That being said, I recognize that attendance at an Orthodox liturgy cannot constitute fulfillment of our Sunday obligation to attend Mass; nor can a Catholic receive Communion at the Orthodox liturgy.
Answer by Catholic Answers on 5/28/2008:


1. For an explanation of "the SSPX," see this Q&A.

2. I did not say that Catholics "should not attend" Eastern Orthodox liturgies. I said that Catholics "ordinarily should not attend," a very important qualifier that basically states that "occasional attendance" for just reason is fine.

3. The Catholic Church is not a "branch" of the one, true Church. It is the one, true Church. The Eastern Orthodox churches are local churches that are in schism from the one, true Church. When Catholic leaders speak of the Eastern and Western churches being "the two lungs" of the one, true Church, they are not referring to the local Eastern Orthodox churches and the universal Catholic Church, but to the Eastern churches (Catholic and Orthodox) and the local Western Catholic church of the universal Catholic Church that is in union with Rome.

4. Ordinarily, a Catholic should not receive Communion at an Eastern Orthodox liturgy, but there are extraordinary circumstances in which the Catholic Church recognizes that a Catholic can approach an Orthodox minister for Communion.

Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ's faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid (canon 844 §2, Code of Canon Law).

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers

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