All be one: Pray for our brothers and sisters
Christ prayed that His followers would “all be one” as He and the Father are one. As members of the Church of Greensburg, we are to share one faith, one hope, one baptism, one Eucharist. The greatest sign of our unity occurs at the Sunday Eucharist when, as God’s people, we gather around the table of the Lord and pray for all of the members of the household of the faith. We do so in union with the Pope, the local Bishop, our brother and sister worshippers, and the universal Church.
The Bishop’s pastoral staff, which he carries, is a reminder to him and to all who see it that he is to love his flock as Christ loves His people. The Bishop is a sign of unity. Great grief in any family occurs when members of the family choose to break the bond of unity with the other family members. Family members leave sometimes because of anger or because of hurt. Sometimes because of both. But a good shepherd seeks the lost sheep and hopes to bring them back to the fold.
Recent events in Mount Pleasant have caused great pain and division in the Catholic community when the serious structural deficiencies of Transfiguration Church necessitated its demolition. I understand the affection and the memories which can attach themselves to a building. Every home in which I lived on the North Side of Pittsburgh has been demolished. They no longer exist, but the memories are still very alive for me. I grieved and then realized that while the homes were destroyed, my family still existed.
With great sadness, I have heard that some of my beloved people are contemplating separation from their union with the Roman Catholic Church. Their departure would deprive us of their fellowship and remove them from unity with the Pope, their Bishop and their brother and sister Catholics who continue to worship with us.
Church law refers to such a departure as “schism.” This is a withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff and from communion with the members of the Church subject to the Pope and in union with a Catholic Bishop. This painful reality may be the intention of some of the individuals who at one time worshiped with us and who may depart from us. The word “Roman” in Roman Catholic is more than just the name of a city. While other churches might use the title “Catholic,” “Roman Catholic” shows the unity with the Holy Father, successor to Peter, and with all local churches united with and under the Pope.
Since Vatican II, we have comfortably used the phrase, “The Church is the Family of God.” The analogy is apt and appropriate. Unfortunately, even in human families, there are members who become estranged. They leave the family group and while they retain the family name, for all practical purposes that is the only attachment that they have to the family from which they departed. That would be an accurate description of those who would leave the Church. Consequences of such a departure from the Church are grave. The schismatic Catholic may not act as a sponsor, receive the Eucharist, the anointing of the sick, or be buried from the Roman Catholic Church unless they approach the sacraments with faith, repentance and renounce their schism by returning to union with the Holy Father.
As shepherd of this local Church, I ask all of God’s people to pray for our brothers and sisters that they may reconsider their intention to leave us. I pledge my prayers, along with my hopes, that they will not abandon us around the table of the Lord. I have heard Polish Catholics frequently say: “Polska zawsze wierna! Polonia semper fidelis!” Poles are always faithful to the Holy Father and the Church. May the hope expressed in that beautiful statement be realized in our diocese. Sincerely yours in Christ:
The Most Rev. Anthony G. Bosco,
bishop of the Greensburg Diocese