Category Archives: Church (ecclesiology)

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Lateran BasilicaWe liturgically recall the dedication of the The Church of the Most Holy Saviour, Rome, is the cathedral church of Western Christianity. It is the Pope’s proper church. Dom Prosper Granger’s word remind us of the importance of this center, this home for all Christians. Honoring this church reminds us that we are an incarnational religion, that Christ Jesus has entered into our history, established a holy city –the Church– and has left us the sacraments mediated through the proclamation of the Gospel, the priesthood and ecclesial life. The church is not merely a building but a vital community of faith, truth and peace. It is the enfleshment of Beauty on earth.

The residence of the Popes which was named the Lateran Palace was built by Lateranus Palutius, whom Nero put to death to seize his goods. It was given in the year 313 by Constantine the Great to Saint Miltiades, Pope, and was inhabited by his successors until 1308, when they moved to Avignon. The Lateran Basilica built by Constantine near the palace of the same name, is the first Basilica of the West. Twelve councils, four of which were ecumenical, have assembled there, the first in 649, the last in 1512.

If for several centuries the Popes have no longer dwelt in the Palace, the primacy of the Basilica is not thereby altered; it remains the head of all churches. Saint Peter Damian wrote that just as the Saviour is the Head of the elect, the church which bears His name is the head of all the churches. Those of Saints Peter and Paul, to its left and its right, are the two arms by which this sovereign and universal Church embraces the entire earth, saving all who desire salvation, warming them, protecting them in its maternal womb.

The Divine Office narrates the dedication of the Church by the Pope of Peace, Saint Sylvester:

It was the Blessed Pope Sylvester who established the rites observed by the Roman Church for the consecration of churches and altars. From the time of the Apostles there had been certain places dedicated to God, which some called oratories, and others, churches. There, on the first day of the week, the assembly was held, and there the Christian people were accustomed to pray, to hear the Word of God, and to receive the Eucharist. But never had these places been consecrated so solemnly; nor had a fixed altar been placed there which, anointed with sacred chrism, was the symbol of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who for us is altar, victim and Pontiff. But when the Emperor Constantine through the sacrament of Baptism had obtained health of body and salvation of soul, a law was issued by him which for the first time permitted that everywhere in the world Christians might build churches. Not satisfied to establish this edict, the prince wanted to give an example and inaugurate the holy labors. Thus in his own Lateran palace, he dedicated a church to the Saviour, and founded the attached baptistry under the name of Saint John the Baptist, in the place where he himself, baptized by Saint Sylvester, had been cured of leprosy. It is this church which the Pontiff consecrated in the fifth of the ides of November; and we celebrate the commemoration on that day, when for the first time in Rome a church was thus publicly consecrated, and where a painting of the Saviour was visible on the wall before the eyes of the Roman people.

When the Lateran Church was partially ruined by fires, enemy invasions, and earthquakes, it was always rebuilt with great zeal by the Sovereign Pontiffs. In 1726, after one such restoration, Pope Benedict XIII consecrated it anew and assigned the commemoration of that event to the present day. The church was afterwards enlarged and beautified by Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII.

L’Année liturgique, by Dom Prosper Guéranger (Mame et Fils: Tours, 1919), The Time after Pentecost, VI, Vol. 15. Translation O.D.M.

Remembering John Carroll’s election

John CarrolToday is the anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Baltimore and the anniversary of a rather unique circumstance, the episcopal election of Father John Carroll (January 8, 1735 – December 3, 1815) as the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of America. As bishop of Baltimore he set the stage for Catholicism’s vitality in the new nation.

So, on this date, 6 November 1789, by the pontifical brief Ex hac apostolicae, Baltimore was made the first diocese of the United States. Father John Carrol was elected the first bishop by the clergy in the USA by a vote of 24 out of 26. Pope Pius VI approved the election and he was consecrated to the episcopacy by Bishop Charles Walmesley, in England, on August 15, 1790.

Among his many accomplishments for the Church he was the founder of Georgetown University, held the first diocesan synod in 1791, invited the English Dominicans to serve here and established the Order of the Visitation. By 1804, the Holy Father entrusted the Church in the Danish West Indies and other nearby islands to Carroll; and by 1805 the Louisiana Territory became part of the Baltimore Province. In April 1808, Pope Pius VII established Baltimore as the first US archdiocese with suffragan diocese of Bardstown, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

The Roman Rota

Roman Rota OfficialsVatican Radio published these photos of the Roman Rota – the Appellate Court of the Catholic Church.

Yesterday, the Rota inaugurated its academic year at the Palazzo della Cancelleria. Some inside scenes that most people never see.




Roman Rota2

Roman Rota

Truth taught and loved since 33 AD

Church foundationI saw a bumper sticker several years ago that read: “Preaching Jesus Christ since 33 A.D.” One of the Orthodox Churches published it as a way of saying that truth, beauty, goodness and unity are given by Jesus Christ; Christ and the church is not a system of beliefs or policies created at-will. Read carefully the image here.

There is always the perennial question about following Christ in the Catholic Church: Why does it matter if you leave the Catholic Church? Does it matter if I stay in the Church?

You can have several approaches to the question, but here are the essentials:

1. the truth claims in God as One and Triune; that God is Being itself; that all beauty and unity are defining characteristics of Father, Son and Holy Spirit;

2. Grace –the inner life of the Triune God, not sin, is given to the Catholic Church because its founder, Jesus Christ;

3. Jesus gave his apostles the grace of the sacred Priesthood, and the other sacraments; the Church gave us the Holy Bible, our sacred Scripture revealed by God;

4. Saint Peter was given the pastoral authority and power to preach, teach, and lead the Church to the fullness of the truth, Christ Himself (Matthew 16; 17-19);

5. the power to forgive sins was given by Christ to Peter and Peter to those anointed to share in his ministry down through the ages (apostolic succession, it is called); we follow the Master in the unity and sacramentality of the Church.

Hence, he Catholic Church, was founded by Jesus and she contains the fullness of truth, as promised by Jesus Himself.

The Church is not merely one among many denominations. The Holy Spirit does not divide the truth; there are not personal versions of the truth that claim to set man and woman free. We believe in the objectivity of truth and this truth is not a thing, but a person. There is one Church only: the Catholic Church. In the USA we encounter many groups who claim to be a “church” and to have the fullness of truth.  Yet, the question needs to be raised: what do we think of the Protestant groups? The teaching of the Catholic states that each of the groups have some aspect of truth but they do not have the fullness of the truth as revealed by Scripture because they lack  valid priesthood and therefore valid sacraments (very few have 7 sacraments that are believed to be instituted by Christ to give grace). As a caveat, we teach and hold that the Orthodox Church has the fullness of truth and sacraments but it lacks true unity with the Body of Christ on earth. One day we will share the Holy Eucharist with the Orthodox.

Catholics are not perfect and they are certainly not holier than other Christians. We are a church of sinners seeking redemption in Christ Jesus. Our belief is that the Catholic Church is both human and divine. And because she shares in Christ’s divinity, it is holy and she will last forever (“I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20). The human side of the church explains the sins, the scandals, unfaithfulness of the people. Logically, though, you cannot claim that the presence of scandals and singer prove that the Catholic Church is false. It proves we need a Savior.

Considering the Christian ecclesial communities and churches, historically we can say that ONLY the Catholic Church existed since the time of Jesus. All other Christian churches have broken from the Catholic Church. Examples: Orthodoxy broke away from unity with the pope in 1054; various mainline Protestant communities were established during the Reformation (1517); and then many of the other smaller groups are breakaways from the Protestant communion.

It is recorded that Church history has lead many unbelievers to search and know the truth. History will demonstrate what the early Church believed about the Eucharist (the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist); how and why the early Christians prayed for the dead; what the Lord gave to the Apostles in terms of sacraments; Peter was clearly chosen by the Lord as the leader of His Church; that Mary was loved and honored by the early Christians and understood as the All-holy Mother of God.

Raising Cardinal George’s galero

Francis George galeroSunday, May 17, 2015, marked the month anniversary of the death of Francis Eugene Cardinal George, OMI, the emeritus archbishop of Chicago. The traditional Mass known as the “month’s mind Mass” was celebrated in Holy Name Cathedral. It completes the Church’s funeral rites for the Cardinal.

He served Chicago for 17 years he as its archbishop. The Cardinal’s motto was Christo, Gloria in Ecclesia (To Christ be glory in the Church).

There is a red hat, once worn by cardinals but no longer used, called a galero; this wide-brimmed hat with elegantly woven tassles hanging from it (see picture).

George’s silk hat now hangs alongside those of previous Chicago Cardinals Joseph Bernardin, John Cody, Albert Meyer, Samuel Stritch and George Mundelein. The tradition of bestowing the wide-brimmed hat when a man entered the College of Cardinals. Pope Paul VI replaced it with a silk biretta following the Second Vatican Council.

In fact, Cardinal George had two galeros but never wore them: one was gift to him from the seminarians of Mundelein seminary and the second one was given to him by friends just months before his death.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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