St. Paul Outside the Walls
“Ecumenism is the
of the Immaculata” - St. Maximilian Kolbe
by John Vennari
the Vatican Press
Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls will open an ecumenical chapel
where non-Catholic religions may perform their own liturgies and prayer
services. The initiative is part of the Pauline year to begin in June, 2008.
Sadly, the opening of the chapel has every indication of being part of Pope
Benedict XVI’s ecumenical program that he urged upon his newly-created Cardinals
in the consistories of both March 2006 and November 2007.
One can rightly imagine how St. Maximilian Kolbe would react against this new program. In 1933, when the ecumenical movement began to get underway, St. Maximilian Kolbe saw it for what it was. He declared ecumenism as the enemy of the Blessed Virgin Mary; a movement to be opposed and destroyed.
The mission St. Maximilian entrusted to his Knights of the Immaculata was that of converting the whole world to the Catholic Church. He said,”Only until all schismatics and Protestants profess the Catholic Creed with conviction, when all Jews voluntarily ask for Holy Baptism – only then will the Immaculata have reached its goals.”
“… In other words” Saint Maximilian insisted, “there is no greater enemy of the Immaculata and her Knighthood than today’s ecumenism, which every Knight must not only fight against, but also neutralize through diametrically opposed action and ultimately destroy. We must realize the goal of the Militia Immaculata as quickly as possible: that is, to conquer the whole world, and every individual soul which exists today or will exist until the end of the world, for the Immaculata, and through her for the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
Father Edward Hanahoe, a superb theologian writing in the 1950s, pointed out a principal evil of the new ecumenism. He explained it has the effect of “perpetuating the state of separation, serving rather to keep people out of Church than to bring them into it.”
A more perfect portrayal of post-Conciliar ecumenism could hardly be penned.
Those who promote the Council’s new ecumenism never remind the non-Catholic of the duty to convert to the Catholic Church for salvation. The true principle of conversion of non-Catholics is now replaced with a new principle of “convergence with non-Catholics”. Thus, as Father Hanahoe warned, today’s ecumenism serves to perpetuate the state of separation of those outside the Church, rather than bring them into it. The ecumenism espoused by Catholics since the Council is actually a counterfeit model of unity adopted from the World Council Churches that implicitly denies the thrice defined infallible doctrine: “Outside the Church there is no salvation”.
Catholics the world over were thus scandalized to learn of the proposal to turn a section of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls into an ecumenical chapel.
The Zenit report of December 21, 2007 read: “An ecumenical chapel at St. Paul Outside the Walls is one of the first initiatives of the upcoming Pauline Year. Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica, announced plans for the chapel in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano”, the Vatican’s official newspaper.
The chapel, said Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, will offer the “possibility for non-Catholic Christian communities to come and pray at the basilica and to celebrate liturgy.”
According to Zenit, the Cardinal presented Benedict XVI with a program of the Pauline Year to be celebrated June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009.
A month later, on January 21 2008, a Vatican Press conference was held in which Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the basilica, confirmed that the major basilica Roman Basilica will open an “Ecumenical Chapel” in conjunction with the Pauline Year.
In an article on the press conference entitled “Strong Ecumenical Element of Pauline Year”, Vatican Information Service reported, “Finally, the cardinal turned his attention the ecumenical programme, ecumenism being an important aspect of the Pauline Year. He announced that the chapel currently used as the baptistery, located between the basilica and the cloister of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, will become the ‘Ecumenical Chapel, maintaining its characteristic baptismal font but designated as a place in which to offer our Christian brethren a special place for prayer, either within their own groups, ... or together with Catholics, without the celebration of the Sacraments’.”
VIS continuted, “This chapel will also be used to house the remains of St. Timothy of Antioch and of other unknown forth century martyrs...”
The saddest aspect of this story is the fact that the Cardinal appears to follow the ecumenical program for the basilica and for the Pauline year sanctioned by Pope Benedict XVI himself. It is also in line with the ecumenical theme given at Pope Benedict’s two consistories of Cardinals.
A Hermeneutic of Ecumenical Continuity
Pope Benedict XVI’s first Motu Proprio
issued on May 31, 2005 was entitled “The Ancient and Venerable Basilica”. It
clarified the canonical structure of the Major Basilica, St. Paul Outside the
Catholic World News reported, “In the Motu Proprio, Pope Benedict calls attention to the historical importance of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls, and especially the traditional connection to ecumenism. He encourages the continuation of that ecumenical unity in conjunction with the work of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity”.
Pope Benedict’s own words in the Motu Proprio on this point are as follows:
“In recent times, the Holy See has taken particular care to promote special ecumenical events in the Basilica or in the Abbey environment. It will therefore be the task of the Monks, under the supervision of the Archpriest, to organize, coordinate and develop such programed, also with the help of Benedictine confreres from other Abbeys and in accordance with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.”
When Pope Benedict speaks of the
ecumenical events connected with of St. Paul Outside the Walls, he is perfectly
• It was at St. Paul Outside the Walls in 1959 that Pope John XXIIII first announced his plan to convene the Second Vatican Council.
• It was at St. Paul Outside the walls where Pope Paul VI addressed the Protestant Observers at Vatican II assembled for a special “Liturgy of the Word” on December 4, 1965, marking the close of the Council. Here Paul VI told them, “Your departure compels us once again to thank you for your presence at our Ecumenical Council. We have appreciated it greatly, and we have felt its influence ...”
• St. Paul Outside the Walls was the place where in January 1986, Pope John Paul II publicly invited all the world religious leaders to participate in his pan-religious prayer for peace at Assisi, which was enacted in October, 1986.
• It was at St. Paul Outside the Walls where in January 2000, Pope John Paul opened the Holy Door of the basilica, marking the beginning of the Jubilee year. This was billed as “The Most Important Ecumenical Meeting since Vatican II”, comprising 200 delegations of ‘Christian Churches’ participating in the opening of the Holy Door, in addition to the World Council of Churches, which embraces 337 sects from over 100 countries. Pope John Paul II opened the Holy Door flanked by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. This was scandalous, as the opening of the Holy Door at a Holy Year by the Pope symbolizes the Pope’s power to open the gates of Heaven for mankind’s reception of sanctifying grace. When John Paul invited a schismatic and a Protestant leader to join with him in this act of opening the Holy Door, he was teaching symbolically that non-Catholic religions are also channels of grace from Heaven.
• Each year, St. Paul Outside the Walls is the site of the concluding liturgy for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a once-Catholic initiative that has become ecumenical since the Vatican II, and now held in conjunction with the World Council of Churches.
• On January 21, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI invited the faithful to come celebrate ecumenical Vespers at this major basilica on January 25, 2007. He said, “I shall preside over Vespers celebrations in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls starting at 5:30 p.m.” The ecumenical Vespers is the closing celebration of the Week of Christian Unity at which the Pope presides. Asia News reported Pope Benedict’s “ecumenical commitment to Christian unity,” in which “Benedict XVI stressed that such a commitment is not limited to the experts but is for everyone.” The Pope said, “Ecumenism is a deep dialogical experience; it is listening and talking to one another, knowing each better. It is a task that everyone can accomplish, especially in terms of spiritual ecumenism based on prayer and sharing that are now possible between Christians.” (This year, as was the case last year, the Week of Christian Unity is jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order from the World Council of Churches. More on this in a future issue).
Thus the establishment of the ecumenical chapel at St. Paul Outside the Walls conforms with the recent ecumenical history of the basilica, and follows Pope Benedict XVI’s request in his Motu Proprio “to promote special ecumenical events in the Basilica or in the Abbey environment.”
The Pauline Year
Pope Benedict XVI likewise encourages
ecumenical events for the upcoming Pauline Year.
On June 28, 2007, the Pope officially announced the special jubilee year of the Apostle Paul from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, for the occasion of the 2000th anniversary of his birth, “which historians place between 7 and 10". The Vatican Information Service [VIS] subtitled its report on the event, “The Pauline Year will be Characterized by Ecumenism”.
VIS reported, “The Pope went on to explain that this ‘Pauline Year’ will be celebrated particularly in Rome and that basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls will host ‘a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events,’ as well as ‘pastoral and social initiatives’.”
It should be noted that Pope Benedict XVI’s call for ecumenical events for the Pauline Year was issued a mere nine days before the release of his July 7 Motu Proprio on the Latin Mass.
VIS continued, “The Holy Father highlighted the fact that the Pauline Year will be characterized by its ‘ecumenical dimension’ because “the Apostle of the Gentiles, particularly dedicated to bringing the Good News to all people, concerned himself with the unity and harmony of all Christians.”
Thus the proposal for the ecumenical chapel by Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica, should come as no surprise, especially since in both consistories of Pope Benedict XVI, the newly-created Cardinals were encouraged to keep ecumenism central to their mission.
Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo,
archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls, was created a Cardinal at the first
Consistory of Pope Benedict XVI, March 25, 2006. Also created Cardinals at this
time were Boston’s Sean O’Malley; San Francisco’s William Levada, and Stanislaus
Dziwisz, former secretary of Pope John Paul II and Archbishop of
The Pope sent a clear ecumenical message at this consistory. Benedict said to his new Cardinals, “I count on you to make the path to full Christian unity quicker and more secure”; as ANSA reported, “picking out one area in which he [the Pope] would like to see progress.”
In the recent consistory of November 24, 2007, Benedict bestowed another 23 Cardinal’s hats, two of which were given to the most Charismatic-friendly prelates in Rome: Archbishops Paul Cordes and Stanislaus Rylko (At a Charismatic gathering I attended in Steubenville, 2005, Charismatic Ralph Martin said he and his wife went into Archbishop Rylko’s office in Rome. Rylko saw them and shouted with glee, “Charismatic Renewal Forever!”)
Ecumenism was a major theme at the November 2007 Consistory, even more so than at the 2006 Consistory. Vatican Information Service reported that at this second Consistory, “Benedict XVI introduced the theme for the day’s discussion: Ecumenical Dialogue in the Light of Prayer and of the Lord’s Command: Ut Unum Sint.”
In the context of this Consistory, Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a speech to the Cardinals that was immediately published in the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano under the title: “Ecumenism as a ‘Holy Obligation’.”
In the presence of the Pope, Cardinal Kasper
• noted that Pope John Paul II declared that the ecumenical effort in the Church is an “irreversible path”;
• reiterated that Pope Benedict XVI from the first day of his Pontificate, made ecumenism a principal element of his regime;
• gave unqualified praise to the 1993 Balamand Agreement that declares the Catholic Church and schismatic Orthodox as “Sister churches” that should not try to convert one another. (The document calls such the principle of conversion an “outdated ecclesiology”);
• rejoiced that various Protestant groups and Catholic communities of religious life and the new spiritual movements have recently formed a “spiritual network”;
• reiterated that “spiritual ecumenism” (Catholics and non-Catholic publicly praying together) is the “very soul of the ecumenical movement.”
• Mentioned that for the Catholic, unity consists in the “presupposition for a Eucharistic Communion”. This is extremely vague, since the New Code of Canon Law allows non-Catholics to receive Communion in various circumstances. Nowhere is the doctrine of Pope Pius XI reiterated that there is only one way to unity: the return of dissidents to the one true Church of Christ.
In fact, Cardinal Kasper is on record as disparaging the traditional Catholic teaching on Christian Unity. He said in 2001, “... today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would 'be converted' and return to being 'Catholics'. This was expressly abandoned at Vatican II.”
Traditional Catholics are rightly outraged at this statement. Yet it must be asked, how does Kasper’s denial of traditional doctrine differ substantially from Pope Benedict XVI’s words at the ecumenical meeting in Cologne, 2005. Here, the Pope said,
“... this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity.... To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make”.
(This was the same speech in which Pope
Benedict said of the recently slain Protestant Brother Roger from Taize, “He is
now visiting us and speaking to us from on high.”)
As Cardinal Kasper continued his remarks at the 2007 Vatican Consistory of Cardinals, he voiced unqualified praise for the 1993 Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms of Ecumenism, a radical document that promotes countless interdenominational activities always condemned by the Church as sins against Faith. Some of these include the permission for Protestants to conduct the readings (except the Gospel) in a Catholic Church [#133]; and the encouragement of “common spiritual exercises” and “retreats” between Catholics and Protestants [#114]
One of the Directory’s proposals germane to the present discussion recommends the construction of a single church to be owned and used by both Catholics and non-Catholics [#138]; and further recommends that in these joint churches, the Blessed Sacrament be placed in a separate chapel or room so as not to offend non-believers. [#139]
How can we not see in this a kind of model for the ecumenical chapel announced for St. Paul Outside the Walls? Remember, this Directory was given positive mention by Cardinal Kasper in the presence of the Pope in the latest consistory of Cardinals only two months ago.
Following up on this ecumenical joint-church recommendation in the 1993 Directory, Cardinal Walter Kasper’s 2007 Handbook for Spiritual Ecumenism makes a similar proposal:
“Pay due attention, in national and international sanctuaries dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to the presence and pastoral needs of those visitors who belong to other Churches and Ecclesial communities by making available appropriate prayers or meditations, along with the use of appropriate liturgical signs and symbols.”
Hence the notion for an ecumenical chapel
is not necessarily an original idea from Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di
Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica. Similar proposals appear in the
1993 Vatican Ecumenical Directory praised at the latest Consistory of Cardinals
in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI, and in Cardinal Kasper’s 2007 Handbook
for Spiritual Ecumenism.
To sum up: Pope Benedict XVI encouraged ecumenism as part of the mission of St. Paul Outside the Walls, and encouraged ecumenism as a central aspect of the Pauline Year. Pope Benedict also made ecumenism a theme in both of his consistories of Cardinals, the last one featuring an ecumenical theme chosen by Benedict, and a speech by Cardinal Kasper promoting the pan-Christian ecumenism that has been the bane of the post-Conciliar church for the last forty years.
This ecumenism was given a further boost by Pope Benedict XVI on January 18, 2008 when he praised Lutheran/Catholic prayer. Vatican Information Service reported his words: “The joint prayer of Lutherans and Catholics from Finland is a humble but faithful sharing in the prayer of Jesus ...”
Catholics need to mount an uncompromising resistance to these ecumenical initiatives, since today’s ecumenism, as Pope Pius XI warned, leads to a “false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ.”
Catholics also need to resist the proposed ecumenical chapel because of the trickle-down effect it will have throughout the world. Once a major Roman church — a papal basilica — establishes an ecumenical chapel within its walls, other Cardinals and bishops may establish similar ecumenical housing in their own diocesan cathedrals. It is a scandal that can multiply in cities around the world. How will a Catholic complain to his bishop about such an abuse when Pope Benedict XVI permits it in a major Roman basilica?
Catholics were rightly critical of Fatima Shrine Rector Guerra who lends out the Fatima Shrine once a year for a group of Anglicans to hold their retreats, liturgies included. But how can Guerra be held fully accountable when an ecumenical Pontiff permits a permanent pan-Christian structure at one of the most venerable sites in Rome? How many copy-cat ecumenical ventures will occur throughout the world when this scandalous chapel is allowed to flourish in the very heart of Christendom? How will we oppose Cardinal Egan, for example, if he turns over a section of New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral for non-Catholic worship? What do we say to modern bishops and Shrine Rectors when they respond to our protests against modern ecumenism with the honest claim that they follow the Pope’s lead?
A Realistic Assessment
purpose of this exercise is not to throw stones at anyone. Nor is it meant to
advance a sedevacantist position — a position I do not hold. Rather, the purpose
of this exercise is an attempt to gain a realistic assessment of the
push-me-pull-you direction of the present pontificate — a baffling spectacle
that appears to move in two opposite directions at once. It reminds one of what
Pius X warned about the Modernists: “Hence in their books you find some things
which might well be expressed by a Catholic, but in the next page you find other
things which might have been dictated by a rationalist.”
Nothing said in this presentation is meant to downplay any attempt by Benedict XVI to return to legitimate Catholic tradition: such as the freeing of the Tridentine Mass; his recent celebration of Mass ad orientem, his efforts to restore Sacred music in Catholic worship. All of these gains should not be undervalued and should be regarded with gratitude.
At the same time, however, Pope Benedict’s forward march of conciliar ecumenism is cause for concern. Have traditional Catholics fought all these years to settle for a kind of ecumenical High-Anglicanism? A new Hegelian synthesis of picture-perfect liturgies and revolutionary theology?
While we appreciate any legitimate return to Tradition under the present pontificate, let us not cease to resist the advances in ecumenism that come from the same quarters: an ecumenism that St. Maximilian Kolbe warned is the “enemy of the Immaculata”; an ecumenism “which every Knight must not only fight against, but also neutralize through diametrically opposed action and ultimately destroy.”
1. Rycerz Niopokalenz, 4 (1922),
p. 78. Cited from The Immaculata Our Ideal, Father Karl Stehlin [Warsaw:
Te Deum, 2005], p.37.
2. Entry of Diary dated April 23, 1933. Cited from The Immaculata Our Ideal, p. 37.
3. One Fold: Essays and Documents to Commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Chair of Unity Octive, 1908-1958 edited by Edward F. Hanahoe, S.A., S.T.D., and Titus F. Cranny, S.A., S.T.D., M.A. [Graymoor: Chair of Unity Apostolate, 1959], p. 121.
4. For a fuller treatment of this, see “Vatican II vs. the Unity Willed by Christ”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, Aug. 2005. Reprint 2023 available for $2.00 postpaid from CFN. On the web at www.cfnews.org/V2-unity.htm
5. This is explained more completely in the DVD: “Vatican II: The Best Council the Protestants Ever Had”. J. Vennari (Available for $12.95 postpaid from Oltyn Library Services, 2316 Delaware Ave, PMB 325, Buffalo NY 14216. Also available on the web at www.cfnews.org/V2-BestCouncil.htm
6. “The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels,' (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this Ecclesiastical Body, that only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and that they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, almsdeeds, and other works of Christian piety and duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Feb. 4, 1442.
7. See “Papal Basilica to Open Ecumenical Chapel”, Zenit, December 21, 2007; and “Strong Ecumenical Element of Pauline Year”, Vatican Information Service, January 21, 2008. On the web at: http://22.214.171.124/news_services/press/vis/dinamiche/a10_en.htm
8. “Papal Document Clarifies Role of Roman Basilica”, Catholic World News, May 31, 2005.
9. Motu Proprio, “The Ancient and Venerable Basilica”, May 31, 2005. (#9) Vatican webpage: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20050531_antica-venerabile-basilica_en.html
10. The Way to Unity After the Council, Augustine Cardinal Bea, [New York: Hereder, 1967], p. 10-11.
11. “John Paul Invites All People to Join in Prayer for Peace”, Associated Press, Jan. 25, 1986.
12. “Most Important Ecumenical Meeting Since Vatican Council II: Opening Holy Doors of St. Paul Outside the Walls”, Zenit, January 14, 2000.
13. “Papal Document Clarifies Role of Roman Basilica”, Catholic World News, May 31, 2005.
14. “Ecumenism, Prayer are Everybody’s Responsibility, Says Pope”, Asia News, Jan. 21, 2007. This was the same speech in which he called on children to throw away toy guns.
16. See Vatican Webpage: “Resources for the Week of Christian Unity”, Jan. 2008: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20070710_week-prayer-2008_en.html
17. “The Holy Father Proclaims a Year Dedicated to St. Paul”, Vatican Information Service, June 28, 2007.
18. “New Cardinals”, The Dallas Morning News, Feb. 24, 2006.
19. “Pope Hands Out 15 Cardinal’s Hats”, ANSA, March 24, 2006.
20. “Church Embraces New Cardinals”, Zenit, Nov. 27, 2007.
21. This was from Martin’s talk: “Transformation in Christ: Wisdom of the Saints". Likewise, Archbishop Paul Cordes is equally favorable towards Charismatics and modern ecumenism, as is evident from his book Call to Holiness: Reflections on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN,1997.
22. DICI (Dec. 19, 2007), taken from Vatican Information Service: Nov. 23-25, 2007.
23. “Ecumenism as a ‘Holy Obligation’”, Intervention by Cardinal Kasper to the College of Cardinals. L’Osservatore Romano. December 5, 2007, pp. 6-7.
24. Adisti, Feb. 26, 2001. English translation quoted from “Where Have They Hidden the Body?” by Christopher Ferrara, The Remnant, June 30, 2001 [emphasis added].
25. Apostolic Journey to Cologne, On the Occasion of the XX World Youth Day.
Ecumenical Meeting, Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Cologne - Archbishop’s House: Friday, 19 August 2005. On Vatican webpage at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/august/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20050819_ecumenical-meeting_en.html [emphasis added].
26. Ibid., See also “Brother Roger Died a Protestant”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, Oct., 2006. [Reprint 2154available for $2.00 postpaid from CFN]. Also on the web at: /www.cfnews.org/BroRoger.htm
27. For a fuller treatment of the 1993 Directory, see “The Ecumenical Church of the Third Millennium”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, January, 1998. (Reprint 256 available for $2.00 postpaid from CFN).
28. A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism, Cardinal Walter Kasper, [Hyde Park: New City Press, 2007], pp. 34.35.
29. “Prayer is the ‘Royal Door’ of Ecumenism”, Vatican Information Service, Jan. 18, 2008. According to this report, Benedict on this date also said, ”We must be grateful for the fruits of the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue in Finland and Sweden concerning central matters of the Christian faith, including the question of justification in the life of the Church”.
30. Mortalium Animos, Pope Pius XI, 1928.
31. See “A Colossal Monument to Diabolic Disorientation”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, November, 2007. [(Reprint 2286 available from CFN for $2.00 postpaid]. Also on the web at: www.cfnews.org/dia-monument.htm
32. Pascendi, #18.
the February 2008 issue of
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