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Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna and Bishop Mario

ROME, Italy, October 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The new secretary general of the Synod of Bishops said that following the coronavirus lockdowns, “[w]e have discovered a new ecclesiology, perhaps even a new theology, and a new ministry,” as well as “a new vision of the Church.” Bishop Mario Grech also appeared to relativize the singular importance of Holy Mass, as well as the priesthood. 

Grech, who was appointed to his new position only in September, told Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica on Wednesday that the “new ecclesiology” lies “in rehabilitating the domestic Church and giving it more space, a Church-family consisting of a number of families-Church [sic].” 

According to the bishop, Catholics “must live the Church within our families. There is no comparison between the institutional Church and the domestic Church. The large community Church is made up of small Churches that gather in houses. If the domestic Church fails, the Church cannot exist. If there is no domestic Church, the Church has no future! The domestic Church is the key that opens horizons of hope!” 

After these general remarks, he argued “clericalism” was responsible for the notion of the domestic Church being forgotten early on in the history of Christianity, playing off against each other the hierarchical structure of the Church and the domestic Church. 

Theology and the value of pastoral care in the family seen as domestic Church took a negative turn in the fourth century, when the sacralization of priests and bishops took place, to the detriment of the common priesthood of baptism, which was beginning to lose its value,” Grech said. “The more the institutionalization of the Church advanced, the more the nature and charism of the family as a domestic Church diminished.” 

It is not the family that is subsidiary to the Church, but it is the Church that should be subsidiary to the family,” he continued. “Inasmuch as the family is the basic and permanent structure of the Church, a sacred and cultic dimension should be restored to it, the domus ecclesiae. Saint Augustine and Saint John Chrysostom teach, in the wake of Judaism, that the family should be an environment where faith can be celebrated, meditated upon and lived. It is the duty of the parish community to help the family to be a school of catechesis and a liturgical space where bread can be broken on the kitchen table.” 

Asked by La Civiltà Cattolica who the “ministers of this ‘Church-family’” might be, Grech said, “For St. Paul VI, the common priesthood is lived in an eminent way by the spouses, armed with the grace of the sacrament of marriage. Parents, therefore, by virtue of this sacrament, are also the ‘ministers of worship,’ who, during the domestic liturgy break the bread of the Word, pray with it, and thus the transmission of the faith to their children takes place.” 

Grech expressed his hope that the notion of the domestic Church might be strengthened not simply as an encouragement to Christian families, like Pope John Paul II had done. Instead, he mentioned it in the context of the coronavirus lockdowns prohibiting the vast majority of Catholics in the Western hemisphere from attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion for months, and appeared willing to advance the “domestic Church” at the expense of going to Mass. 

For Grech, however, it was merely “curious that many people have complained about not being able to receive communion and celebrate funerals in church, but not as many have worried about how to reconcile with God and neighbor, how to listen to and celebrate the Word of God and how to live out a life of service.” 

While admitting that “the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the bishop said “it is of concern that someone feels lost outside of the Eucharistic or worship context, for it shows an ignorance of other ways of engaging with the mystery. This not only indicates that there is a certain spiritual illiteracy, but is proof of the inadequacy of current pastoral practice. It is very likely that in the recent past our pastoral activity has sought to lead to the sacraments and not to lead through the sacraments to Christian life.” 

Grech also briefly talked about the concept of synodality, according to which the Church “‘walks together’ with men and women and participates in the travails of history,” cultivating “the dream of rediscovering the inviolable dignity of peoples and the service function of authority. This will help us to live in a more fraternal way and to build a world for those who will come after us that is more beautiful and more worthy of humanity.” 

The bishop said, recalling statements made by Pope Francis, that in a synodal Church “each person opens up to novelty, to a change of opinion, to rejoice in what others say.” 

Grech made headlines in 2017, when as Bishop of Gozo, Malta, he argued that so-called divorced and remarried could receive Holy Communion, contradicting Catholic teaching. Grech’s guidelines applied the Pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, an outgrowth of two synods of bishops.