Centenary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches

Centenary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches  

The Philatelic Office of the Vatican celebrates the centenary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches created on 1 May 1917 by Pope Benedict XV with the Motu Proprio Dei Providentis, giving it the mandate to maintain contact with the Oriental Catholic Churches for the sake of assisting their development, protecting their rights and also maintaining whole and entire in the one Catholic Church - alongside the liturgical, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Rite - the heritage of the various Oriental Christian traditions. The miniature sheet issued for the occasion features the middle and upper parts of the wall of the apse of the Congregation’s Byzantine Rite chapel painted between 1940 and 1943 by Dutch Benedictine monk Jérôme Leussink, commissioned by Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, secretary of the Congregation at the time. The images produced on the miniature sheet are part of a wider iconographic program recalling the great events of salvation history that find their completion in the eucharistic scene of the communion of the apostles, showing an altar surmounted by a ciborium with Christ distributing communion to the twelve apostles preceded by Peter on the left and by Paul on the right. The words in Greek recite: this is my body ... this is my blood. The Communion of the Apostles, recalling a typology from the 5th-6th century, does not attempt to describe the Last Supper according to its historicity, but rather to present the Sacrament of the Eucharist as a moment of communion of the faithful with the body and blood of the Lord. Depicted above this scene is a beautiful image of the Mother of God praying, crowning the cosmic and eschatological vision of the "heavenly liturgy" developed on the rest of the wall.