Holy See Evaluating 40 Years of Ecumenism

The Real Thing Doesn’t Harm Catholic Identity, Says Cardinal Kasper

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Evaluating the last 40 years of dialogue among Christians, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity says that genuine ecumenism does not harm Catholic identity.

Cardinal Walter Kasper expressed this conviction when presenting the international congress «The Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, 40 Years After,» in the Vatican press office.

The meeting will take place Thursday through Saturday in Rocca di Papa, near Rome, to evaluate the ecumenical dialogue promoted since the publication of the 1964 decree «Unitatis Redintegratio.»

The congress will address questions that the cardinal himself articulated: «What was the message and the objective of the document? What effect has it had in these years? Where have we arrived today in ecumenism? What still remains to be done?»

Cardinal Kasper said that «the Church’s ecumenical awareness has grown.» But he acknowledged that «problems and disappointments still exist» and «obviously, we have still not reached the objective: full and visible communion.»

«We are in an intermediary state,» he said. «Sometimes, old prejudices persist. Also to be deplored are signs of slowness and egoism.»

He also lamented that at times «ecumenism falls prey to superficial activism.»

Posing a question — «Ecumenism, where are you going?» — Cardinal Kasper explained that there are two tasks to be addressed: «Catholic identity and spiritual ecumenism.»

«The suspicion that ecumenical dialogue harms our own Catholic identity is a grave suspicion,» he noted. «The truth is the opposite: Dialogue presupposes partners who have their own identity.»

Regarding spiritual ecumenism, the cardinal said: «Ecumenism is not a form of ecclesiastical diplomacy,» but rather a «spiritual process.»

In this connection, he revealed that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is preparing the draft of a «Vademecum of Spiritual Ecumenism,» which will give «suggestions for the dioceses, guidelines.»

Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the pontifical council, indicated that 260 people will attend the conference, including representatives from 28 episcopal conferences in Africa, 21 from America, 28 from Asia, 25 from Europe and two from Oceania. Representatives from the Eastern Catholic patriarchates, the Orthodox Churches, and other churches and Christian communities are also expected.

On Saturday at 5:30 p.m., John Paul II is scheduled to preside at a celebration of vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica, to which representatives of churches and ecclesial communities, parishes and faithful of the Diocese of Rome, movements and associations that work and pray for Christian unity, have been invited.

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