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

1 comment:

  1. It is my understanding that the Pope and the Orthodox leadership have shared Holy Communion in private and are praying for healing of the schism, believing that the differences can be resolved. The Pope, I understand, has asked the Orthodox leadership to let him know what the Catholic Church can do to resolve the differences. I admire this humility and willingness to work through and resolve what can be healed, bringing a great body of believers together as one again. At this time, it is my understanding that the Catholic Church will serve communion to Orthodox believers, but the Orthodox will welcome Catholics to their services but cannot typically serve communion to anyone who is not a member of the Orthodox Church. Let us pray for the healing of East and West. Let this be a priority to all of us. Jesus said, "This is My commandment, that you love one another." He also said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another." It is time that the world saw the miracle of East and West demonstrating this kind of love toward one another. Both the leaders of the Catholic Church and those of the Orthodox Church need to meet together in the upper room, waiting on the Holy Spirit, eating only bread and water, and not going home until this matter is finished. Jesus cried out on the Cross: "It is finished!" Let it be so with the healing of the East and West receiving Him and His healing afresh. Let East and West know that He Who raised Lazarus from the dead can bring back the twelve original Bishops to meet together as one body, alive and well, radiating the living body of Christ to our hurting world. Juliette