World Council and Catholics Seek Common Voice

Commemorate 40 Years of Collaboration

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

GENEVA, NOV. 18, 2005 ( More can be done to unite Christians, said a Vatican official, 40 years after the foundation of a joint consultative body of the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke Thursday about the five challenges facing ecumenism, at the opening event of a three-day meeting on the future role of the Joint Working Group, at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, near Geneva.

«Without danger of betraying our faith or our conscience,» Cardinal Kasper said, «we could already today do much more together than we actually do.»

First, he said, the ecumenical movement «needs clarity, sometimes new clarity on its theological foundations.»

Second, there must be «a shared vision and goal.»

«Do the partners in the ecumenical movement have a shared understanding of ecumenism and its main goal?» he asked. «Without an answer to the question of where we are going, we will get nowhere.

«The Catholic understanding of unity, understood as full communion in faith, sacraments and Church ministry, corresponds in principle with that understanding of our Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox sister churches, but unfortunately differs from the most usual interpretation of the mainline Protestant position.»

«Dialogue presupposes partners who have their own clear identity,» explained the cardinal. «Only then can they appreciate another, different identity, and enter into a meaningful and fruitful dialogue.»


Third, «there is no ecumenism without conversion,» Cardinal Kasper said. «There is no future at all without conversion. Renewal and conversion of heart includes both personal and institutional aspects.

«Personal conversion and sanctification imply a spirituality of ‘communio,’ which means to make room for the other, and to withstand the egoistic temptations of competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.»

«At the same time, institutional reform — the council speaks even of ‘continual reformation’ — is an essential presupposition and condition for ecumenical progress,» the cardinal added.

Fourth, he said, it must be understood that «the heart and soul of the ecumenical movement» is «spiritual ecumenism.»

«Mere ecumenical activism becomes a soulless bureaucracy and is destined to exhaust itself,» he cautioned. Prayer, said Cardinal Kasper, takes «the first place in spiritual ecumenism.»

This spirituality, he added, leads to another manifestation of ecumenism, the «great cloud of witnesses,» «especially of those who gave their life for Christ; the numerous martyrs in many of our Churches — Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant — in the 20th century.»

Social responsibility

Fifth, the cardinal highlighted the need for «practical ecumenism,» namely, «the commitment of all Christians to proclaim Christ, without neglecting the social implications.»

Christians must be committed to «the dignity of the human person; … human rights; … the sanctity of life, family values, education, justice and peace, health care, the preservation of creation and last but not least interreligious dialogue,» he said.

The central committee moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Catholicos Aram I, said that the two entities should seek to address issues with a united voice.

«In a world of uncertainties and tensions, people are increasingly expecting» this unity, he said.

Jointly, the two bodies could provide a «framework» to «address issues of common concern together,» said Catholicos Aram I. «Such joint action would make a difference in many respects.»

21st century

The secretary-general of the WCC, Samuel Kobia, in his welcoming address, said: «We need to renew and reaffirm our ecumenical vision in language which is convincing and compelling for the Churches — and for Christians! — in the 21st century.»

Churches «need one another in order for each of them to fully be what Christ intends them to be,» said Kobia.

«Ecumenical institutions and structures which can respond to this situation» are also needed, he added.

The two co-moderators of the Joint Working Group — Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, Scotland, representing the Catholic Church; and Bishop Jonas Jonson of the national Church of Sweden, representing the WCC — participated in a public event of celebration and thanksgiving that opened the meeting.

The WCC is a fellowship of 347 churches, representing more than 120 countries, from virtually all Christian traditions.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a member, but works cooperatively with the organization.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation