The Pact of the Catacombs

The Pact of the Catacombs (Domitilla)
We, bishops assembled in the Second Vatican Council, are conscious of the deficiencies of our lifestyle in terms of evangelical poverty. Motivated by one another in an initiative in which each of us has tried avoid ambition and presumption, we unite with all our brothers in the episcopacy and rely above all on the grace and strength of Our Lord Jesus Christ and on the prayer of the faithful and the priests in our respective dioceses. Placing ourselves in thought and in prayer before the Trinity, the Church of Christ, and all the priests and faithful of our dioceses, with humility and awareness of our weakness, but also with all the determination and all the strength that God desires to grant us by his grace, we commit ourselves to the following:

  1. We will try to live according to the ordinary manner of our people in all that concerns housing, food, means of transport, and related matters. See Matthew 5,3; 6,33ff; 8,20.
  2. We renounce forever the appearance and the substance of wealth, especially in clothing (rich vestments, loud colors) and symbols made of precious metals (these signs should certainly be evangelical). See Mark 6,9; Matthew 10,9-10; Acts 3.6 (Neither silver nor gold).
  3. We will not possess in our own names any properties or other goods, nor will we have bank accounts or the like. If it is necessary to possess something, we will place everything in the name of the diocese or of social or charitable works. See Matthew 6,19-21; Luke 12,33-34.
  4. As far as possible we will entrust the financial and material running of our diocese to a commission of competent lay persons who are aware of their apostolic role, so that we can be less administrators and more pastors and apostles. See Matthew 10,8; Acts 6,1-7.
  5. We do not want to be addressed verbally or in writing with names and titles that express prominence and power (such as Eminence, Excellency, Lordship). We prefer to be called by the evangelical name of “Father.” See Matthew 20,25-28; 23,6-11; John 13,12-15).
  6. In our communications and social relations we will avoid everything that may appear as a concession of privilege, prominence, or even preference to the wealthy and the powerful (for example, in religious services or by way of banquet invitations offered or accepted). See Luke 13,12- 14; 1 Corinthians 9,14-19.
  7. Likewise we will avoid favoring or fostering the vanity of anyone at the moment of seeking or acknowledging aid or for any other reason. We will invite our faithful to consider their donations as a normal way of participating in worship, in the apostolate, and in social action. See Matthew 6,2-4; Luke 15,9-13; 2 Corinthians 12,4.
  8. We will give whatever is needed in terms of our time, our reflection, our heart, our means, etc., to the apostolic and pastoral service of workers and labor groups and to those who are economically weak and disadvantaged, without allowing that to detract from the welfare of other persons or groups of the diocese. We will support lay people, religious, deacons, and priests whom the Lord calls to evangelize the poor and the workers by sharing their lives and their labors. See Luke 4,18-19; Mark 6,4; Matthew 11,4-5; Acts 18,3-4; 20,33-35; 1 Corinthians 4,12; 9,1-27.
  9. Conscious of the requirements of justice and charity and of their mutual relatedness, we will seek to transform our works of welfare into social works based on charity and justice, so that they take all persons into account, as a humble service to the responsible public agencies. See Matthew 25,31-46; Luke 13,12-14; 13,33-34.
  10. We will do everything possible so that those responsible for our governments and our public services establish and enforce the laws, social structures, and institutions that are necessary for justice, equality, and the integral, harmonious development of the whole person and of all persons, and thus for the advent of a new social order, worthy of the children of God. See Acts 2,44-45; 4;32- 35; 5,4; 2 Corinthians 8 and 9; 1 Timothy 5,16.
  11. Since the collegiality of the bishops finds its supreme evangelical realization in jointly serving the two-thirds of humanity who live in physical, cultural, and moral misery, we commit ourselves:
    a) to support as far as possible the most urgent projects of the episcopacies of the poor nations;
    b) to request jointly, at the level of international organisms, the adoption of economic and cultural structures which, instead of producing poor nations in an ever richer world, make it possible for the poor majorities to free themselves from their wretchedness. We will do all this even as we bear witness to the gospel, after the example of Pope Paul VI at the United Nations.
  12. We commit ourselves to sharing our lives in pastoral charity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, priests, religious, and laity, so that our ministry constitutes a true service. Accordingly, we will make an effort to “review our lives” with them; we will seek collaborators in ministry so that we can be animators according to the Spirit rather than dominators according to the world; we will try be make ourselves as humanly present and welcoming as possible; and we will show ourselves to be open to all, no matter what their beliefs. See Mark 8,34-35; Acts 6,1-7; 1 Timothy 3,8- 10.
  13. When we return to our dioceses, we will make these resolutions known to our diocesan priests and ask them to assist us with their comprehension, their collaboration, and their prayers.

May God help us to be faithful

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  1. Sandra Mc Sheaffrey says:

    Thanks to the person who contributed this. It is even more urgent today and not alone for bishops. Food for thought and action this Advent.

  2. What an extraordinary communication from SEDOS. I’m wondering who the other 48 bishops were – did any of them write about the event in their memoirs or give the information to colleagues at home?
    I also wonder if we trolled through the dioceses of those who attended Vat.11, might we see the huge differences in the organisation of diocese of the Catacomb Pact Bishops from those others?
    If they got the support they outline in the final paragraph,what a joy it must be for both clergy and laity living and participating in those spiritually renewed diocese. We could do w ith it now.

  3. “If they got the support” : Helder Camara if I remember correctly, was bishop of Recife in Brazil. He appears indeed to have been true to his word, turning his back on the trappings of wealth. He was reported to be often found in workers’ cafes, conversing with ordinary people and to have promoted in action what became known as Liberation Theology. He is known for having promoted “base Christian communities” and to have adopted a “preferential option for the poor”. Even in Ireland some looked to follow his ideas. The Vatican, however took a dim view of Helder Camara and viewed Liberation Theology as a form of communism. When Helder Camara retired as bishop the Pope replaced him with his exact opposite : a new bishop described as ‘a fat man with gold cross’ who promptly evicted any of Helder Camara’s base communities who met in church property.

  4. Bob Hayes says:

    I had to chuckle at the ninth bullet point that refers to bishops offering, ‘a humble service to the responsible public agencies’. Evidently a rose-tinted view of the post war ‘cradle to the grave’ omnipresent State. How many of us would like our bishops today to pledge themselves to ‘humble service’ of the State?

  5. Tim Hazelwood says:

    What wonderful aspirational and challenging resolutions. They are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago. I realise that it would be difficult for me to be so selfless and generous in my ministry but that my challenge.
    I am particularly drawn to the 5th and 12th resolutions as those topics are real for me at the moment.
    At the end of 2013 when our Diocesan Directory was being prepared, when submitting the information on Killeagh parish, I requested to be addressed in the Directory as ‘Fr’. The practice is that curates are addressed as ‘Rev’, parish priests as ‘Very Rev’ and then all the other titles that describe your prominence in the diocese. My request was ignored, I never even got an acknowledgement of my request.
    This year when submitting the information for the Directory I repeated my request and followed up with a telephone call to the diocesan office only to be informed by the lay secretary that my request would not be granted on the orders of the bishop. I was not asking for any other persons title to be altered only my own. Sadly it seems that there is no room for difference and conformity is compulsory. I suppose what surprised me most was the fact that it was felt my request did not deserve a response.
    You will be glad to know that the diocese has just appointed 5 new Canons of the Cathedral Chapter and an Archdeacon.
    May God help us to be faithful.

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Tim,whatever about the printed diocesan directory, I’m glad to see that you stand out as the only Father on the Cloyne Website, in both the Clergy and Parishes lists. Best wishes with Resolution 12.
    However, despite Pope Francis’s attempts to invert or subvert the old ecclesiastical pyramid, an Irish diocese is a precarious house of cards whose every brick must have its correct specification and position. These chaps didn’t get where they are by being somewhere else. If, like Francis, every Rev suddenly wants to be called ‘Fr’ (Frater) or ‘P'(Pater), what a headlong collapse there’ll be of V. Revs, V. Rev Canons, Rev Msgrs, V. Rev Msgrs, Rt Rev Msgrs, Lt Rev Msgrs, Most Revs etc ! Apologies to the other 25 dioceses if I have carelessly omitted the odd Venerable, Highly Venerable, Eminence, or Serene Holiness.
    But Tim, as we’re coming up to his second anniversary, time to quote again from the 1st Nov 2011 Epistle on Leadership of that “complex man with the annoying habit of always speaking the truth,” Fr Joe McGuane of Youghal and Ballinspittle:
    “A third theme we might take up is leadership. Clerical land has none. Promotion comes not from any initiative (it disqualifies) but through doing nothing. By doing nothing you cannot make a mistake. It is only fair to say that one or two do slip through the net.
    Clerics are promoted and given vacuous ludicrous titles not because of any initiative or leadership qualities, but because they at least give the impression that they will do knee-jerk blind unquestioning obedience.Items such as pastoral initiative and administrative gifts are on the back boiler, and, as we have learned to our cost, it shows. By and large, only those who do short term are promoted. Very few visionaries in the higher ranks. These closed minds then put other closed minds in positions of responsibility. The result is that the whole works are gummed up.
    Leadership might be a theme to consider.”
    Four years later, Pope Francis, the ACP and the people of Killeagh might conclude, “You know, Joe was dead right.”

  7. Willie Herlihy says:

    Karol Józef Wojtyła from communist Poland, became Pope John Paul 11 in October 1978 and promptly started to put an end to all this clap trap from Vatican 11.
    What was required was some communist style organisation of the church. i.e. All authority was to be centred in Rome.
    All bishops were to be selected according to his template,they make up most of the bishops to day.
    Poor Pope Francis is trapped, in a web of conspiracy run by the curia.
    Lip service will continue be paid to reform, until the curia is reformed,a very difficult task, remember culture eats change.
    I close with a quote from  one of my great hero’s Helder Camera of Brazil;
    “When I give food to the poor,they call me a saint.When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist”.

  8. “Four years from now” : In four years acts of courage and principle, including speaking the truth, will be just as difficult as now.

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