D E C R E E S
1. DECRE OF THE COMPULSORY CELIBACY, OF THE PASTOR AETERNUS
AND OF THE PASTRAL-SACRAMENTAL ERROR
The holy, Second Council of WCNCC, lawfully assembled, not without the special guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost, declares:
1. 1. First division (DISCIPLINARY) of the Roman Catholic Church – compulsory celibacy
Until the Second Lateran Council held 1139, it exists only one Catholic Church, with the Pope in Rome, our spiritual father, on the head. This council introduced compulsory celibacy and destroyed the millennial practice of marriage the church. After breaking the millennial practice of ordination of married, the Tradition of the Old Church, based on the testimony of the Gospels and the Apostles, was broken. This was the first diversion of the Church, in a disciplinary sense.
1. 2. Second division (DOGMATIC) of the Roman Catholic Church – Pastor aeternus
Until the First Vatican Council held 1870., it still exists only one church jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, with the Pope in Rome, our spiritual father, on the head. But with dogmatic decree Pastor aeternus (about the infallibility [and juridic omnipotence] of the Bishop of Rome) the old church was definitely wounded, and that was not the same Church any more.
The history of the Church does not know one infallibility bishop, except Christ Jesus our infallible Lord. And the jurisdictional omnipotence of the bishops in Rome, if they existed, ceased with a schism in 1054, so it was pointless to declare it on the First Vatican Council in 1870., after a series of centuries of ecclesiastical independence of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Unity can be created with love and understanding and not by unilateral dogmatic decrees (Pastor aeternus).
1. 3. Third division (PASTORAL & SACRAMENTAL) of the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht Union
Utrecht union was one positive attempt to overcome a disciplinary and dogmatic division of Roman Catholic Church, but Utrecht Union, has fallen into a new pastoral and sacramental division, introducing the apostatic blessing of same-sex couples and ordination of women to the Holy Orders, and this is foreign to the two-millennium practice of the Church of Christ.
1. 4. Authentic solution - World Council of National Catholic Churches
Because of all the above, as a true return to the authenticity of Catholicism, the WCNCC was created to be community of national Catholic churches that remain on Catholic doctrine and tradition. The WCNCC was established at a meeting in Mafra, Portugal, from 22 to 25 October 2004.
The WCNCC bridges the discontinuity and manifests the continuity of authentic Catholicism. In this way the Catholic Church operates without flaws in the unity of the autocephalous ecclesiastical regions united in the World Council of National Catholic Churches, as one Catholic Church, originally founded by our Lord Jesus Christ and developed by his apostles and their successors in the Holy Spirit. The visible sign of the unity of the Church is the Old Catholic Patriarch.
Therefore, we honor the memory of all popes of true faith, starting with the married Pope St. Peter (+67) to Pope Honorius II. (+1130), we recognize them as our holy fathers. According to the present Pope’s, we have great respect, and it is left to the Metropolitans to choose to mention the Pope in the Canon of the Mass.
1. 5. Filioque problem remains for the future solivng
Filioque is a Latin term ("and from the Son") added to the original Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (commonly known as the Nicene Creed), and which has been the subject of great controversy between Eastern and Western Christianity. It is a term that refers to the Son, Jesus Christ, as an additional origin point of the Holy Spirit. It is not in the original text of the Creed, attributed to the First Council of Constantinople (381), which says that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father", without additions of any kind, such as "and from the Son". The Filioque problem has provoked many unnecessary debates in the Church. We hope this problem will be overcome in the future.
1. 6. Overcoming divisions among churches
The splitting of the church is contrary to God's will. All Church in the world is in a sad position because there is no unity between. We hope and pray the Holy Spirit to create Church unity again. Because that is the will of our Lord and Savior Jesus.
The issue of communion and jurisdiction among the churches is realized through dialogue between the Churches, which achieves its realization in the church intercommunion. The acceptance of one Bishop as main (Pope) - on the basis of an eventually successful dialogue - can be based on canonical ecclesiastical law.
The precondition for this is putting the discipline of celibacy out of force for members of WCNCC and not impose a dogmatic decree Pastor aeternus.
1. 7. Canons
1.7.1 About compulsory celibacy
CANON I. If anyone shall say, that it is not lawful the marriage of the clergyman (before receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders or after, because the sacraments are complementary and not opposed to each other) let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
1.7.2 About dogmatic decree Pastor aeternus
CANON II. Infallibility of Roman bishop we understand as a pious doctrine left to the free choice of the faithful.
1.7.3. About pastoral and sacramental error
CANON III. If anyone shall say that the same sex-blessing (or marriage) and ordaining women in holy orders are right, let such have no ecclesial communion with us. That is foreign to the two-millennium practice of the Church of Christ.
2. DECREE OF HIERARCHY
The Church is organized in holy hierarchy. The hierarchy is evident in the Autocephalous Church Regions (provinces). Every Church Regions have Archbishop Metropolitan on the head. The Metropoly consist from three Bishops of which one is a Metropolitan. Church Region may consist several world states. Autocephalic Church Regions (provinces) may have their own canonical legislation to which they adhere. The decisions of the Council are binding on all ecclesiastical areas and all bishops.
2.1. The Holy Council of the World Council of National Catholic Churches is the highest hierarchical representation and ecclesiastical legislature, as well as the supreme judicial authority. It is a solemn assembly of all Bishops at which important church issues are resolved and decisions and decree are made binding for all church members of WCNCC. The Council is convened and chaired by the Patriarch.
2.2. The Holy Synod is the highest executive (administrative and supervisory), judicial and electoral authority in which all Bishops participate. The Holy Synod is convened - among other things - to elect a new Patriarch. The Synod is convened and chaired by the Patriarch. If the Patriarch's throne is sede vacante, then the General Secretary will convene and chair the Synod to elect a new Patriarch. If the throne of General Secretary is also sede vacante, then the oldest Metropolitan (according to the years of episcopal ordination), convenes and chairs to the Synod to elect a new Patriarch.
2.3. Patriarch of WCNCC is, as a rule, one of the Metropolitan of Church Region and symbol of unity of the World Council of National Catholic Churches as one Catholic Church. A bishop may also be elected for Patriarch, in that case, he is the highest member of the Church although he was not previously be the Arhbishop Metropolitan. Patriarch has no juridic authority over other Church regions (provinces) except that he must give his agree for the consecration of a new bishop in a WCNCC. Without his consent, the consecration of a new Bishop is not canonically lawful and such a consecrated Bishop cannot be in communion with WCNCC, because it destroys the unity of the Church. Patriarch is an important advisory factor of the Church whose opinion is respected. The Patriarch is the first among equals (primus inter pares). All Bishops can participate in the election. All Bishops can be candidates for Patriarch if they choose to candidature. The Patriarch decides on the admission of other Bishops to the WCNCC. The Patriarch elects the General Secretary and appoints Bishops to a rank of Archbishops and Archbishops to a rank of Archbishops Metropolitan.
2.4. General Secretary of WCNCC is a service tightly connected with the Patriarch to help him in management of the WCNCC. The Patriarch elects the General Secretary from one of the Archbishops Metropolitan of the Church Region. In the case of sede vacante of Patriarch, General Secretary leads the WCNCC until election of new Patriarch and organizes the time and place for the election of the new Patriarch on the Holy Synod.
2.5. Archbishop Metropolitan is Archbishop who is on the head of Church Region. The Patriarch assigns the title of Metropolitan to such Archbishops.
2.6. Archbishop is the bishop who have legal jurisdiction over one large ecclesiastical area. The Patriarch may confer the honorary title of Archbishop to a Bishop for high pastoral merit.
2.7. Bishop is the high church prelate and minister who has received a highest degree ministry (the fullness of the priesthood) and have legal jurisdiction over one ecclesiastical area, or as Auxiliary bishop or General vicar covers part of an area or even a larger area.
2.8. Priest is a church minister who has received a second-degree ordination for ministry. He assists a priest and bishop and acts in the church.
2.9. Deacon is a church minister who has received the lowest degree ordination for ministry. He assists a priest and bishop and acts in the church.
2.10. A believer is a member of the church who has not received ordination but cares for and helps the church
2.11. Episcopus vagans (wandering bishop) is the Bishop who are not in canonical ecclesial communion.
3. DECREE OF INTERCOMMUNIONS
3.1. Suitable for intercommunion
For intercommunion are eligible Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well as the correct Old Catholic and National Catholic churches. If that Churches allow our view and specificity, they are welcome for intercommunion. The National Catholic Churches of WCNCC accept doctrines of the Roman Catholic church (except Second Lateran Council held in 1139. with obligation of the discipline of celibacy, and First Vatican Council held in 1870. with doctrine of the infallibility of a roman bishop).
3.2. Not suitable for intercommunion
It is not possible to have intercommunion with churches of the Protestant (and similar) faith because major differences in the church doctrine (about sacraments, about real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, about apostolic succession etc.)
4. DECRE OF THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
As the truly catholic believers, we can never enough explain the importance of blessed sacrament of Eucharist, and real presence of our Lord in it. From the Catholic perspective, a wrong confession of the Eucharist fundamentally undermines all other doctrines. The Eucharist is the basis for church fellowship, unity, grace, love, and piety. The mass is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. It is indescribable importance of Christ’s actual presence in the Blessed Eucharist.
The holy, Second Council of WCNCC, lawfully assembled, not without the special guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost, believe in true and ancient doctrine of faith and in the sacred and Holy Eucharist, which our Savior left in His Church as a symbol of charity in which He would fain have all Christians be mutually joined and united together.
Venerable and divine sacrament of the Eucharist, that sound and genuine doctrine, which the National Catholic Churches gathered in communion of Word Council of National Catholic Churches, instructed by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and by His apostles, and taught by the Holy Ghost, who day by day brings to her remembrance all truth, has always retained, and will preserve doctrine of real presence of Lord Jesus in the sacrament of Eucharist.
The Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist
In the first place, we teach, and openly and simply professes, that, in the sacred sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things. Jesus will be, in many other places, sacramentally present unto us in his own substance, by that manner of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words, we yet can, by the understanding illuminated by faith, suppose, and ought most faithfully to believe, to be possible unto God. For thus Ancient Catholic forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ, who have discoursed of this most holy sacrament, have most openly professed, that our Redeemer instituted this so admirable a sacrament at the last supper, when, after the blessing of the bread and wine, He bore witness, in distinct and clear words, that He gave them His own very Body, and His own Blood; words which, recorded by the holy Evangelists, and afterwards repeated by St. Paul, whereas they carry with them that proper and most manifest meaning according to which they were understood by the fathers.
The Reason of the Institution of this most holy Sacrament
Our Saviour, therefore, when about to depart from this world unto the Father, instituted this Sacrament, in which He, as it were, poured forth the riches of His divine love towards man, making a remembrance of his wonderful works; and He commanded us, in the participation thereof, to venerate His memory, and to show his death until He come to judge the world. And He also willed that this sacrament should be received as the spiritual food of souls, whereby may be nourished and strengthened those who live with His life, who said, He that eateth me, he also shall live by me; and as an antidote, by the which we may be freed from daily faults, and preserved from mortal sins. He willed, furthermore, that it should be a pledge of our glory to come, and of everlasting happiness, and thus be a symbol of that one body of which He is the head, and to which He would fain have us, as members, be united by the closest bond of faith, hope, and charity.
The Excellency of the most holy Eucharist above the rest of the Sacraments
This indeed is common to the most holy Eucharist with the rest of the sacraments, that it is a symbol of a sacred thing, and is a visible form of an invisible grace; but there is found in the Eucharist this excellent and peculiar thing, that the other sacraments have then first the power of sanctifying, when one uses them, whereas in the Eucharist, before the use, there is the Author Himself of sanctity. For the apostles had not as yet received the Eucharist from the hand of the Lord, when, nevertheless, Himself truly affirmed that to be His own body which He presented. And this faith has always been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the very Body of our Lord, and His very Blood, together with His soul and divinity, exist under the species of bread and wine; but the Body indeed under the species of bread, and the Blood under the species of wine, by the force of the words; but the body itself under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under each, by the force of that natural connexion and concomitancy by which the parts of Christ our Lord, who hath now risen from the dead, to die no more, are united together; and the divinity, furthermore, on account of that admirable hypostatical union thereof with His body and soul. Wherefore it is most true, that as much is contained under either species as under each; for Christ whole and entire is under the species of bread, and under any part soever of that species; likewise, the whole [Christ] is under the species of wine, and under its parts.
Various formulas about the Eucharist
But because Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be verily His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and We declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion takes place of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. There are various formulas about Eucharist and that try to approximate and explain that mystery and modus of Christ presence in the Eucharist (vere, realiter et sacramentaliter), but above all these formulas the most important thing is to know that this is really happening, that it is really Christ present.
The Worship and Veneration to be shown to the most Holy Sacrament
There is, therefore, no room left for doubting, that all the faithful of Christ, according to the custom ever received in the World Council of National Catholic Churches, exhibit in veneration the worship of latria, which is due to the true God, to this most holy sacrament. For it is not the less to be worshipped on this account, that it was instituted by Christ, the Lord, to be received. For we believe that same God to be present therein, concerning whom the eternal Father, when introducing him into the world, says; And let all the angels of God adore him; who, in fine, as the scripture beareth witness, was worshipped by the apostles in Galilee.
This Second World Council of National Catholic Churches declares, moreover, that very piously and religiously was this custom introduced into the Church, that this most sublime and venerable sacrament should be, with special veneration and solemnity, celebrated, every year, on a certain day, and that a festival; and that it should be borne reverently and with honour in processions through the streets, and public places. For it is most just that there be certain stated holy days, when all Christians may, with a special and unusual demonstration, testify that their minds are grateful and mindful towards their common Lord and Redeemer for so ineffable and truly divine a benefit, whereby the victory and triumph of His death are represented.
The reservation of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and taking it to the sick
The custom of reserving the Holy Eucharist in the sacrarium is so ancient, that even the age of the Council of Nicea recognized it (See Conc. Nicaeen. I. c. 13.). Moreover, as to the carrying the sacred Eucharist itself to the sick, and carefully reserving it unto this purpose in churches, besides that it is conformable with the highest practice, equity and reason, it is also found enjoined in numerous early councils, and observed according to the most ancient of the Catholic Church. Wherefore, this Holy Council ordains, that this salutary and necessary custom be by all means retained.
The Preparation which is to he given that one may worthily receive the sacred Eucharist
If it becometh not for any one to approach any of the sacred functions, unless [he approach] holily; assuredly, the more the holiness and divinity of this heavenly sacrament be understood by a Christian man, so much the more diligently ought he to take heed that he approach not to receive it but with great reverence and holiness, especially as we read in the apostle those words full of careful: He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself (1 Cor. xi. 29). Wherefore, he who would communicate, must recall to mind his precept: Let a man prove himself (1 Cor. xi. 28).
Now, ecclesiastical usage declares that such an examination is necessary in order that no one conscious to himself of mortal sin, however contrite he may feel, ought to receive the Sacred Eucharist without previous sacramental confession.
On the Use of this admirable Sacrament
Now as regards the use, Ancient Fathers have rightly and wisely distinguished three ways of receiving this holy sacrament. Believers must prepare themselves beforehand, that they approach this divine sacrament.
Now as to the reception of the sacrament, it was always the custom in the Church of God, that laymen should receive the communion from the churchman which is at least acolyte.
Lord Jesus Christ, who gave unto us His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation, and gave unto us His own flesh to eat, they would believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such constancy and firmness of faith, with such devotion of soul, with such piety and worship, as to be able to receive frequently that supersubstantial bread, and that it may be to them truly the life of the soul, and the perpetual health of their mind; that, by the strength thereof, being invigorated, they may, after the journeying of this miserable pilgrimage, be able to arrive at their heavenly country, to eat, without any veil, that same bread of angels which they now eat under the sacred veils.
CANON I. If any one shall deny, that, in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist, are verily, really, and substantially contained the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but shall say that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON II. If any deny conversion of the substance of the bread into the Body, and of the substance of the wine into the Blood; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON III. If any one shall deny, that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON IV. If any one shall say, that, after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but [are there] only during the use, whilst it is being taken, and not either before or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles, which after communion are reserved or remain, the true body of the Lord remaineth not; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON V. If any one shall say, either that the chief fruit of the most holy Eucharist is the remission of sins, or, that from it other effects do not result; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON VI. If any one shall say, that, in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with even the worship external of latria, and is, consequently, neither to be venerated with a special festive celebration, nor to be solemnly borne about in processions, according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of the holy Church; or, is not to be proposed publicly to the people to be worshipped, and that the worshippers thereof are idolaters; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON VII. If any one shall say, that it is not lawful for the sacred Eucharist to be reserved in the sacrarium, but that, immediately after consecration, it must necessarily be distributed amongst those at hand; or that it is not lawful that it be carried honourably to the sick; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON VIII. If any one shall say, that Christ, presented in the Eucharist, is eaten spiritually only, and not also sacramentally and really; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON IX. If any one shall deny, that all and each of Christ's faithful of both sexes are bound, when they become more adults, to receive Holy Communion, at least one time on year, at Easter; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON X. If any one shall say, that it is not lawful for the priest who celebrating gived Holy Communion to himself; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
CANON XI. If any one shall say, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let such have no ecclesial communion with us.
5. DECREE OF THE HOLY ORDERS
The holy, Second World Council of National Catholic Churches, lawfully assembled, not without the special guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, confirms the doctrine of the Holy Orders based on doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
In the World Council of National Catholic Churches sacraments and blessings are performed according to the Roman rite, but rites can also be the Eastern Orthodox.
As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the unity of World Council of National Catholic Churches made from autocephalous ecclesiastical regions, headed by the Patriarch as a sign of unity, as the first among equals.
The Second World Council of National Catholic Churches teaches that there are seven sacraments or rites through which God can communicate his grace to an individual. The sacraments are channels for God’s grace - every time when believers take part in a sacrament, they receive grace.
The sacrament of Holy Orders
1. Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.
Why is this sacrament called ‘’orders’’?
2. The word order in antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture (Heb 5:6; 7:11; Ps 110:4) , has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaconorum. Other groups also receive this name of ordo: catechumens, spouses, widows…
3. Integration into one of these bodies in the Church was accomplished by a rite called ordinatio, a religious and liturgical act which was a consecration, a blessing or a sacrament. Today the word "ordination" is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a sacra potestas (sacred power) which can come only from Christ himself through his Church. Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his Church. The laying on of hands by the bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible sign of this ordination.
The sacrament of Holy Orders in the economy of salvation
The priesthood of the Old Covenant
4. The chosen people was constituted by God as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6; cf. Isa 61:6). But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance (Cf. Num 1:48-53; Josh 13:33) A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are "appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Heb 5:1; cf. Ex 29:1-30; Lev 8).
5. Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer (Cf. Mal 2:7-9) this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish (Cf. Heb 5:3; 7:27; 101-4).
6. The liturgy of the Church, however, sees in the priesthood of Aaron and the service of the Levites, as in the institution of the seventy elders, (Cf. Num 11:24-25.) a prefiguring of the ordained ministry of the New Covenant.
Thus in the Rite the Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ORDINATION OF BISHOPS:
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…
by your gracious word
you have established the plan of your Church.
From the beginning,
you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and priests
and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you…
(Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration)
At the ORDINATION OF PRIESTS, the Church prays:
Lord, holy Father…
when you had appointed high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task…
you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men…
You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father's power.
(Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Priests 22, Prayer of Consecration)
In the consecratory prayer for ORDINATION OF DEACONS, the Church confesses:
Almighty God . . .,
You make the Church, Christ's body,
grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple.
You enrich it with every kind of grace
and perfect it with a diversity of members
to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.
You established a threefold ministry of worship and service,
for the glory of your name.
As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.
(Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Deacons 21, Prayer of Consecration)
The one priesthood of Christ
7. Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the "one mediator between God and men" (2 Tim 2:5). The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18) "holy, blameless, unstained," (Heb 7:26) "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified," (Heb 10:14) that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.
8. The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet IT IS MADE PRESENT IN THE EUCHARIST SACRIFICE OF THE CHURCH. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ's priesthood: "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Hebr. 8,4)
Two participations in the one priesthood of Christ
9. Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church "a kingdom, priests for his God and Father" (Rev 1:6; cf. Rev 5:9-10; 1 Pet 2:5,9). The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated to be… a holy priesthood."
10. The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, "each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ." While being "ordered one to another," they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace - a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit - the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.
In the person of Christ the Head
11. In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:
12. It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).
13. Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.
14. Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers. In the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is typos tou Patros: he is like the living image of God the Father (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1:SCh 10,96; cf. Ad Magn. 6,1:SCh 10,82-84).
15. This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister's sin cannot impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church.
16. This priesthood is ministerial. That office which the Lord committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of the term a service. It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It depends entirely on Christ and on his unique priesthood; it has been instituted for the good of men and the communion of the Church. The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a "sacred power" which is none other than that of Christ.
17. The exercise of this authority must therefore be measured against the model of Christ, who by love made himself the least and the servant of all (Cf. Mk 10:43-45; 1 Pet 5:3). "The Lord said clearly that concern for his flock was proof of love for him" (St. John Chrysostom, De sac. 2, 4:PG 48, 636; cf. Jn 21:15-17).
In the name of the whole Church
18. The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ - Head of the Church - before the assembly of the faithful, but also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice.
19. "In the name of the whole Church" does not mean that priests are the delegates of the community. The prayer and offering of the Church are inseparable from the prayer and offering of Christ, her head; it is always the case that Christ worships in and through his Church. The whole Church, the Body of Christ, prays and offers herself "through him, with him, in him," in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. The whole Body, caput et membra, prays and offers itself, and therefore those who in the Body are especially his ministers are called ministers not only of Christ, but also of the Church. It is because the ministerial priesthood represents Christ that it can represent the Church.
The three degrees of the sacrament of Holy Orders
20. The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons. Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, in the Councils of the WCNCC, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate . The diaconate is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called "ordination," that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders: "Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church" (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1:SCh 10,96).
Episcopal ordination - fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders
21. Amongst those various offices which have been exercised in the Church from the earliest times the chief place, according to the witness of tradition, is held by the function of those who, through their appointment to the dignity and responsibility of bishop, and in virtue consequently of the unbroken succession going back to the beginning, are regarded as transmitters of the apostolic line.
22. To fulfill their exalted mission, "the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration" (Cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7).
23. The fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by episcopal consecration, that fullness namely which, both in the liturgical tradition of the Church and the language of the Fathers of the Church, is called the high priesthood, the acme (summa) of the sacred ministry.
24. Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling. In fact by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative (in Eius persona agant). By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors.
25. 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. The character and collegial nature of the episcopal order are evidenced among other ways by the Church's ancient practice which calls for several bishops to participate in the consecration of a new bishop. The lawful ordination of a bishop requires a document of the election of the Synod or a document of the appointment of the competent ecclesiastical authorities - depending about tradition or organization of specific autocephalic regions and church of World Council of National Catholic Churches.
26. As Christ's vicar, each bishop has the pastoral care of the particular Church entrusted to him, but at the same time he bears collegially with all his brothers in the episcopacy the solicitude for all the Churches. Though each bishop is the lawful pastor only of the portion of the flock entrusted to his care, as a legitimate successor of the apostles he is, by divine institution and precept, responsible with the other bishops for the apostolic mission of the Church.
27. The above considerations explain why the Eucharist celebrated by the bishop has a quite special significance as an expression of the Church gathered around the altar, with the one who represents Christ, the Good Shepherd and Head of his Church, presiding.
The ordination of priests - co-workers of the bishops
28. "Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has, through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers in his consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted in varying degrees various members of the Church with the office of their ministry. The function of the bishops' ministry was handed over in a subordinate degree to priests so that they might be appointed in the order of the priesthood and be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ
29. Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and rules his Body. Hence the priesthood of priests, while presupposing the sacraments of initiation, is nevertheless conferred by its own particular sacrament. Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head.
30. "Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament." (Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B).
31. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles. The spiritual gift they have received in ordination prepares them, not for a limited and restricted mission, "but for the fullest, in fact the universal mission of salvation "to the end of the earth" (cf. Acts 1:8), prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.
32. It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful (synaxis) that they exercise in a supreme degree their sacred office; there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father (1 Cor 11:26). From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly ministry draws its strength.
33. "The priests, prudent cooperators of the episcopal college and its support and instrument, called to the service of the People of God, constitute, together with their bishop, a unique sacerdotal college (presbyterium) dedicated, it is, true to a variety of distinct duties. In each local assembly of the faithful they represent, in a certain sense, the bishop, with whom they are associated in all trust and generosity; in part they take upon themselves his duties and solicitude and in their daily toils discharge them. Priests can exercise their ministry only in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him. The promise of obedience they make to the bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss of peace from him at the end of the ordination liturgy mean that the bishop considers them his co-workers, his sons, his brothers and his friends, and that they in return owe him love and obedience.
34. All priests, who are constituted in the order of priesthood by the sacrament of Order, are bound together by an intimate sacramental brotherhood, but in a special way they form one priestly body in the diocese to which they are attached under their own bishop. The unity of the presbyterium finds liturgical expression in the custom of the presbyters' imposing hands, after the bishop, during the Ate of ordination.
The ordination of deacons - "in order to serve"
35. "At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry. At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon's special attachment to the bishop in the tasks of his "diakonia" (Cf. St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 8:SCh 11,58-62).
36. Deacons share in Christ's mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint ("character") which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the "deacon" or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.
37. Indeed it is appropriate and useful that men who carry out a truly diaconal ministry in the Church, whether in its liturgical and pastoral life or whether in its social and charitable works, should be strengthened by the imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles. They would be more closely bound to the altar and their ministry would be made more fruitful through the sacramental grace of the diaconate.
The celebration of this sacrament
38. Given the importance that the ordination of a bishop, a priest, or a deacon has for the life of the particular Church, its celebration calls for as many of the faithful as possible to take part. It should take place preferably on Sunday, in the cathedral, with solemnity appropriate to the occasion. All three ordinations of the bishop, of the priest, and of the deacon, follow the same movement. Their proper place is within the Eucharistic liturgy.
39. The essential rite of the sacrament of Holy Orders for all three degrees consists in the bishop's imposition of hands on the head of the ordinand and in the bishop's specific consecratory prayer asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained (Cf. Pius XII, apostolic constitution, Sacramentum Ordinis: DS 3858)
40. As in all the sacraments additional rites surround the celebration. Varying greatly among the different liturgical traditions - either East Orthodox or West Catholic - these rites have in common the expression of the multiple aspects of sacramental grace. Thus in the West Catholic rites, the initial rites - presentation and election of the ordinand, instruction by the bishop, examination of the candidate, litany of the saints - attest that the choice of the candidate is made in keeping with the practice of the Church and prepare for the solemn act of consecration, after which several rites symbolically express and complete the mystery accomplished: for bishop and priest, an anointing with holy chrism, a sign of the special anointing of the Holy Spirit who makes their ministry fruitful; giving the book of the Gospels, the ring, the miter, and the crosier to the bishop as the sign of his apostolic mission to proclaim the Word of God, of his fidelity to the Church, the bride of Christ, and his office as shepherd of the Lord's flock; presentation to the priest of the paten and chalice, "the offering of the holy people" which he is called to present to God; giving the book of the Gospels to the deacon who has just received the mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
Who can confer this sacrament?
41. Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his mission and authority. Raised to the Father's right hand, he has not forsaken his flock but he keeps it under his constant protection through the apostles, and guides it still through these same pastors who continue his work today.
42. Thus, it is Christ whose gift it is that some be apostles, others pastors. He continues to act through the bishops (Eph 4:11).
43. Since the sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament of the apostolic ministry, it is for the bishops as the successors of the apostles to hand on the gift of the Spirit, the apostolic line. Validly ordained bishops, i.e., those who are in the line of apostolic succession, validly confer the three degrees of the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Who can receive this sacrament?
44. Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry (Cf. Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16; 1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 1:6; Titus 1:5-9; St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 42,4; 44,3:PG 1,292-293; 300).
45. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
46. No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God (Cf. Heb 5:4).
47. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God's call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.
48. All the ordained ministers of the Old Catholic Churches of World Council of National Catholic Churches, are normally chosen from among men of faith who are married: "Now the overseer (ἐπισκοπῆς - bishop) must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife" (Cf 1 Tim 3:2)
49. In the Catholic Church until the Second Lateran Council in the 12th century everyone clerics was allowed to married (including bishops), hence the Old Catholic Churches of WCNCC continues this proper practice based on the Gospel and the Tradition of the Original Catholic Church. It is well known that St. Peter was married, therefore all his true heirs are exclusively those who are married: "If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?" (1 Tim 3:6)
50. It does not matter whether the sacrament of holy orders is received before or after sacrament of marriage. These two sacraments are not opposed but complement each other regardless of the order of reception.
51. Church officials are free to accept celibacy as well, but by free will and not by canon law. A celebrity cleric can marry at will in anytime. A cleric can be married only once. If his wife has died he can no longer married.
The effects of the sacrament of Holy Orders
The indelible character
52. This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king.
53. As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ's office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.
54. It is true that someone validly ordained can, for grave reasons, be discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can be forbidden to exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the strict sense, because the character imprinted by ordination is for ever. The vocation and mission received on the day of his ordination mark him permanently.
55. Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. St. Augustine states this forcefully:
As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth… The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled (St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 5,15:PL 35,1422).
The grace of the Holy Spirit
56. The grace of the Holy Spirit proper to this sacrament is configuration to Christ as Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, of whom the ordained is made a minister.
57. For the bishop, this is first of all a grace of strength - "the governing spirit": Prayer of Episcopal Consecration in the Latin rite (Cf. Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration; cf. 13; 16).
58. The grace to guide and defend his Church with strength and prudence as a father and pastor, with gratuitous love for all and a preferential love for the poor, the sick, and the needy. This grace impels him to proclaim the Gospel to all, to be the model for his flock, to go before it on the way of sanctification by identifying himself in the Eucharist with Christ the priest and victim, not fearing to give his life for his sheep:
Father, you know all hearts.
You have chosen your servant for the office of bishop.
May he be a shepherd to your holy flock,
and a high priest blameless in your sight,
ministering to you night and day;
may he always gain the blessing of your favor
and offer the gifts of your holy Church.
Through the Spirit who gives the grace of high priesthood
grant him the power
to forgive sins as you have commanded
to assign ministries as you have decreed
and to loose from every bond by the authority which you
gave to your apostles. May he be pleasing to you by his gentleness and purity of heart,
presenting a fragrant offering to you,
through Jesus Christ, your Son…
(Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Bishops 26, Prayer of Consecration; cf. St. Hippolytus, Trad. ap. 3:SCh ll,44-46.)
59. The spiritual gift conferred by presbyteral ordination is expressed by this prayer of the Byzantine Rite. The bishop, while laying on his hand, says among other things:
Lord, fill with the gift of the Holy Spirit
him whom you have deigned to raise to the rank of the priesthood,
that he may be worthy to stand without reproach before your altar
to proclaim the Gospel of your kingdom,
to fulfill the ministry of your word of truth,
to offer you spiritual gifts and sacrifices,
to renew your people by the bath of rebirth;
so that he may go out to meet
our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, your only Son,
on the day of his second coming,
and may receive from your vast goodness
the recompense for a faithful administration of his order (Byzantine Liturgy, Euchologion).
60. With regard to deacons, strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel, and of works of charity.
61. Before the grandeur of the priestly grace and office, the holy doctors felt an urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole lives to him whose sacrament had made them ministers. Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as a very young priest, exclaimed:
We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God's greatness and man's weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ's priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God's image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes. (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,71,74,73:PG 35,480-481).
And the holy Cure of Ars:
The priest continues the work of redemption on earth… If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love…The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.
(St. John Vianney, quoted in B. Nodet, Jean-Marie Vianney, Curé d' Ars, 100)
In brief about Holy Orders
St. Paul said to his disciple Timothy: "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim 1:6), and "If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task." (1 Tim 3:1) To Titus he said: "This is why I left you in Crete, that you amend what was defective, and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you" (Titus 1:5).
The whole Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the "common priesthood of the faithful." Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community.
The ministerial priesthood differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministers exercise their service for the People of God by teaching (munus docendi), divine worship (munus liturgicum) and pastoral governance (munus regendi).
Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Trall. 3,1).
The bishop receives the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates him into the episcopal college and makes him the visible head of the particular Church entrusted to him. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the unity of World Council of National Catholic Churches made from autocephalous ecclesiastical regions, headed by the Old Catholic Patriarch as a sign of unity, as the first among equals.
Priests are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity and at the same time depend on them in the exercise of their pastoral functions; they are called to be the bishops' prudent co-workers. They form around their bishop the presbyterium which bears responsibility with him for the particular Church. They receive from the bishop the charge of a parish community or a determinate ecclesial office.
Deacons are ministers ordained for tasks of service of the Church; they do not receive the ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on them important functions in the ministry of the word, divine worship, pastoral governance, and the service of charity, tasks which they must carry out under the pastoral authority of their bishop.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by the laying on of hands followed by a solemn prayer of consecration asking God to grant the ordinand the graces of the Holy Spirit required for his ministry. Ordination imprints an indelible sacramental character.
The Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men, whose suitability for the exercise of the ministry has been duly recognized. Church authority alone has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.
In the WCNCC Old Catholic Churches, the Sacrament of Holy Orders may be administered to candidates who are married or freely choose to live in celibacy.
In the WCNCC Old Catholic Churches same-sex blessing and ordination of a woman in the Holy Orders is not possible.
It is bishops who confer the sacrament of Holy Orders in the three degrees.
We confirm this Council in the name of the Lord Jesus!
Rab, (Croatia), 1th to 3th October 2021.
in Nomine Domini Nostri Jesu Christi
✠ Msgr. PAVEL BEGICHEV