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"Breathing with Both Lungs"
Question from Rich on 9/8/2001:

Glory to Jesus Christ! Dear Anthony,

Could you clarify what exactly the Holy Father meant when he said the Church must learn to breathe with both lungs, its Eastern one and its Western one?

Does this mean that individual Catholics are to "breathe with both [Eastern and Western] lungs"? Because for many Catholic people, there is little or no opportunity to experience or even become aware of the other "lung" of the Church. Even I as a Byzantine Catholic living in a mostly western-Christian (although actually secular post-Christian) society have enough challenge merely to live up to my Christian vocation fully through my own Tradition without also trying to impute part of another Tradition to myself.

I'm not talking about discovering something that brings somebody to Christian spiritual fulfillment, as obviously there are plenty of Catholics who were raised in one Tradition but eventually saw fit to embrace another.

In short, I think many people have misunderstood the Holy Father's message about this into thinking that somehow all Catholics are called to be somehow "bi-ritual." He was speaking of the Church united East and West when he made this statement, was he not?

I think it's wonderful for Catholics, Eastern and Western, to learn about each other and appreciate the wealth of each Tradition, and most certainly the Church as a whole (which is by its universal nature both Eastern and Western) can only benefit from this. But I am not sure I *personally* am called to breathe with a "Western lung" that I really don't believe I even have.

God bless you!

Answer by Anthony Dragani on 9/14/2001:

"The Church must breathe with her two lungs!"

- Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, no. 54

Rich,

Indeed, your assessment is correct. It is the CHURCH that must breathe with two lungs, not individual Catholics. To interpret this statement as meaning that all Catholics must somehow become bi-ritual is not accurate. In the context of Ut Unum Sint, it becomes clear that the Holy Father is claiming that the Catholic Church has been dominated primarily by the Latin tradition. He believes that a balance must be restored, in which both the Latin and Eastern traditions will contribute to the health of the Church.

But in order to restore this balance, individual Latin Catholics should (if possible) learn about and come to appreciate the Eastern tradition. This responsibility is especially important for educators, deacons, priests, and bishops. Eastern Catholics must contribute to this endeavor by being faithful to our own Eastern tradition, which we have so often neglected.

God Bless, Anthony

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