The St Colman Society for Catholic Liturgy has very kindly shared with us the following report of the proceedings of the Fota VII liturgical conference recently held in Cork, Ireland. The second part will be published on Friday.The Conference was opened by Cardinal Burke who outlined the significance of the term “agens in persona Christi” (acting in the person of Christ) from Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei and its assumption into the decree of the Second Vatican Council on the life and ministry of priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis. He emphasized the need to recover the Council’s image of the priest especially today as the priest is often seen in terms of a social worker, an NGO representative or an institutional manager.
Dom Paul Gunter OSB
“Astare coram te et tibi ministrare: The Priest agens in Persona Christi”
Dom Paul Gunter OSB delivered the opening paper in which he considered the priest agens in persona Christi by reflecting on the rite of Ordination, De Ordinatione, and by comparing the typical editions of 1968 and 1990.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked upon, and touched with our own hands, concerning the word of life,” is the subject of any consideration of the ordained priest agens in persona Christi. Like eternal life itself, priesthood is pure gift, and, as nobody can claim a right to be saved, none can claim the right to be ordained. For an ordained priest, the mystery of vocation will be at the heart of such a reflection, whether about the ordained priesthood itself, whether about what such a priest does in his ministry.
It is only within the mystery of vocation that any priest can say as in the Second Eucharistic Prayer, “we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.”
Dr Philip Boyce
“The Role of the Priest as Intercessor, with particular reference to Blessed John Henry Newman”
Dr. Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe, delivered a paper on the role of the priest as intercessor with particular reference to Blessed John Henry Newman. He emphasised the importance of this ministerial role both in the celebrating the sacraments, especially the the Holy Eucharist, and in prayer. Emphasising the unity of Newman’s intellectual life and his spiritual and religious life, Bishop Boyce illustrated how Newman’s understanding of the intercessory role of the priest embraced not only his theological writings but also his personal life as a priest as can be seen in his diaries and notebooks in which he carefully noted all those for whom he prayed. For Newman, the great mystery of the priest as intercessor focused not so much on the fact that the priest made intercession to God for the world but that he could have any influence at all on the work of God's providence.
Father João Paulo de M. Dantas
“Agere in persona Christi capitis”. A clarification on the systematic Theology of the ordained ministry.
The author presented a summary of his doctoral research, in which he studied the origin, the biblical-theological sense, the importance and the way in which the expression “in persona Christi capitis” is used in the post-conciliar magisterium and in contemporary theology.
The formula “in persona Christi capitis” officially joins the theological vocabulary of the ordained ministry with the Second Vatican Council (Presbyterorum Ordinis n. 2). This expression was prepared by the Magisterium of Pius XII, in his encyclical Mediator Dei (1947) the Pope stated: “Christi fideles autem per sacerdotis manus Sacrificium offerre ex eo patet, quod altaris administer personam Christi utpote Capitis gerit”. (Now it is clear that Christ’s faithful offer the Sacrifice by the hands of the priest from the fact that the minister at the altar bears the person of Christ, that is, the person of the Head of the Mystical Body.)
This expression was established with the purpose of saying the specific nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood which, as Lumen Gentium n. 10 recalls, essentially distinguished the common priesthood of the faithful.
Those who act “in persona Christ capitis” are by virtue of the sacramental configuration with Christ impressed in them living instruments through which Christ proclaims the Gospel, sanctifies and guides men on the way of the Kingdom. The research began with a view of the biblical meaning of Christ’s headship, after which it proposed a historical-theological leading down to the coining of the expression in the context of Vatican II. The research presented the theological meaning of that expression and finally presented the importance of the expression “in persona Christi capitis” for contemporary theology.
Saturday afternoon Pontifical Vespers were celebrated at the day’s conclusion in Sts Peter and Paul Church, Cork, by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
Sunday at 11:30, Terce was followed by Pontifical Mass offered by Most Rev Philip Boyce OCD, standing in for George Cardinal Pell, who was unable to leave Rome due to work commitments. Sacred Music for the ceremonies was provided by the Lassus Scholars, directed by Dr Ite O’Donvovan, with organ accompaniment by Mr Paul McKeever.