Polish National Catholic-Roman Catholic Dialogue Holds Spring Meeting

May 12, 2000 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (May 12, 2000) -- Further discussion of the Petrine Ministry and primacy in the Church took place at the Spring 2000 meeting of the Polish National Catholic-Roman Catholic Dialogue.

The meeting, hosted by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton, was held in the Diocesan Chancery, May 10 and 11.

Most Rev. John F. Swantek, Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) announced at the meeting that the Right Rev. Robert Nemkovich, Bishop of the PNCC Western Diocese (Chicago) had been appointed as PNCC Co-Chairman of the dialogue to take the place of Bishop Anthony Rysz, who recently retired.

The Dialogue continued its discussion of the Petrine Ministry and primacy in the Church. A paper by Msgr. John Strynkowski responding to Prime Bishop Swantek's earlier presentation of the PNCC position on this topic was heard. It drew on recent statements from other ecumenical dialogues as well as the 1995 papal encyclical Ut Unum Sint. This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion of the meaning of various concepts such as "primacy of honor," "first among equals," "servant of the servants of God," the relationship between honor and authority, and the relationship between the Bishop of Rome and the episcopal college.

Attention was also given to a draft document that fleshes out in greater detail the circumstances under which it is possible for Roman Catholic faithful to receive the sacraments of the Polish National Catholic Church. The 1996 Pastoral Guidelines issued by the Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA) dealt with the reception of Roman Catholic sacraments by PNCC faithful, but did not address this other question.

Prime Bishop Swantek reported on the Old Catholic International Bishops' Conference. The next meeting is to take place in Poland later this month. The issue of women's ordination is a continuing source of tension within the Union of Utrecht; the PNCC has broken communion with the churches of Germany and Austria over this issue.

The dialogue also discussed an December 1999 agreement between the German Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Old Catholic Church of Germany regarding the reception of clergy from either church into the service of the other.

Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP, of the BCEIA secretariat gave a presentation of the document Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and Faults of the Past released by the International Theological Commission on March 7, and the "Request for Forgiveness" service in the Vatican presided over by Pope John Paul II on March 12. The members of the dialogue expressed great appreciation for the Pope's dramatic gesture which should do much to help Christians to overcome the hard feelings and divisions of the past.

The dialogue did not meet in the fall of 1999 because of scheduling problems. In the meantime there has been some change in membership on both sides. The current PNCC members include Bishop Robert Nemkovich (Co-Chairman), Very Rev. Marcell W. Pytlarz, Rev. Waine Kargul, Rev. Paul Sobiechowski, and Very Rev. John Z. Kraus. The Roman Catholic members include Bishop James C. Timlin (Co-Chairman), Bishop Edward Kmiec, Bishop Thomas Wenski, Bishop John Dougherty, Msgr. John Strynkowski, Msgr. Thomas Green, and Rev. Ronald Roberson. The next meeting is scheduled to take place October 24-25, 2000, at the PNCC National Church Center in Scranton.