Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Old Catholic Church

Six months ago we joined the Old Catholic Church - or, perhaps more accurately, they accepted us as members of their congregation at the Freidenskirche, Wiesbaden. The name means, "The Peace Church" and the building was erected and dedicated in 1900 -1901. Recently we celebrated the 110th anniversary of its founding with a full church for our Eucharistifeier.

But who, I can hear you ask, are the "Old Catholics?" Are they some sort of "super catholic" church with Latin, Orders and all the bells and smells? A branch of Rome that makes Rome look liberal? The simple answer is no. The Old Catholics are a Synodical Church which follows the traditions of the church pre-1054 when the Orthodox Churches split and refused to recognise the sovereign leadership of Rome. It is a church that holds to the doctrines of Nicea and of the "catholic" or "universal" church.

We are an Ecumenical Church which has links and full communion with the Anglican Church, the Lutheran or "Evangelical" Churches and others.

The Church has a history which goes back to the Reformation and the subsequent struggles by Rome to suppress dissent and reform. The Diocese of Utrecht, which, since its founding had elected its own Bishops, broke with Rome in 1723 when Rome tried to revoke that constitution. In 1873, the German Diocese came into being when a large number of German Catholics found they could not agree with the change of what had been "dogma" into "doctrine" by the First Vatican Council - which declared the Pope the sole arbiter of authority on Earth and that the incumbent Pope was "infallible."

I'm afraid it is easy to see where that "doctrine" has given rise to the abuses the Roman church is struggling to deal with today.

Examining the liturgical traditions, I have found that the Old Catholics follow a modern version of the Liturgy Anglicans would easily recognise. Like the Church of England's "Common Worship" it contains elements of the earliest "English" Liturgy - the Sarum or Salisbury Rite. Like Anglicanism, it has a wide range of liturgical practice, from very relaxed, through to the full traditional Mass. Again, like Anglicans, the single unifying factor is the belief in Christ's presence in the Eucharist.

For us both, it has been, and is, an enriching experience to worship in this congregation and tradition.

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