WASHINGTON (May 24, 2001) — The official Polish National Catholic – Roman Catholic dialogue held its spring session in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on May 16 and 17, at the Chancery of the Roman Catholic Diocese. The meeting was co-chaired by Roman Catholic Bishop James C. Timlin of Scranton and PNCC Bishop Robert Nemkovich of the Western Diocese (Chicago).
The meeting began with a discussion of the status of the revised text of the 1996 Pastoral Guidelines issued by the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs concerning sacramental sharing between the faithful of the two churches. The revised text addresses more fully the circumstances under which it is permissible for Roman Catholic faithful to receive the sacraments in the Polish National Catholic Church. Bishop Tod D. Brown, the Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, is engaged in further consultation with interested parties, including the Canadian and Polish Bishops’ Conferences, before recommending further action.
The members also examined the general tenor of relations between the two churches at the national, diocesan, and local levels. While in general these relations continue to be warm, the members of the dialogue felt it would be good to remind the faithful of both churches to avoid actions that might call into question the well-established mutual recognition of Holy Orders and other sacraments celebrated by bishops and priests of either church.
There was also a discussion of the relationship between the Roman Catholic and Polish National Catholic Churches in light of the recent Note of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the use of the term “sister churches.” It seemed clear to the members that the main concern of the Congregation was to avoid use of the term in a way that could obscure the fact that the Church as the Body of Christ in the world is one and indivisible, and thus can have no “sisters.” But still local PNCC and Roman Catholic Churches can be thought of as sisters in a way that is consistent with the text.
The meeting also included a brief presentation by Fr. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP, on the recent visit of Pope John Paul II to Greece and Syria, and his upcoming visit to Ukraine. Msgr. John Strynkowski gave a presentation on the contents of the Pope’s Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, dated January 6, 2001. The meeting was also attended by PNCC Prime Bishop John F. Swantek, who reported on recent developments in the Union of Utrecht.
This dialogue between the Polish National Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church has been meeting regularly since its inception in 1984. In addition to the two co-chairmen, the Roman Catholic members include Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Nashville, Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty of Scranton, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Msgr. John Strynkowski, Msgr. Thomas Green, and Rev. Ronald G. Roberson, CSP (staff). Additional PNCC members include Very Rev. Marcel Pytlarz, Very Rev. John Z. Kraus, Very Rev. Paul Sobiechowski, and Rev. Anthony Mikovsky. The next meeting is scheduled to take place on October 24 and 25, 2001, at the PNCC National Church Center in Scranton.