A Papal Priority: Ecumenism

Official Welcomes Progress With Orthodox

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).-Ecumenical dialogue is a priority for Benedict XVI, as it has been for every Pope since the Second Vatican Council, says a Vatican official in charge of promoting Christian unity.

And, Bishop Brian Farrell continued saying to L’Osservatore Romano, this dialogue is advancing, though not at the same rate on every front. He pointed to significant steps forward with the Orthodox and remaining uncertainties with communities born from the Reformation.

The bishop, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was speaking with the Vatican daily for a series of articles marking this week’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Bishop Farrell affirmed that for the present Pontiff, ecumenism is a «priority matter,» as is proven by his «numerous meetings and discourses of ecumenical character.»

He pointed to one of the Pope’s recent discourses in this regard, given Dec. 12, when the Holy Father addressed the plenary assembly of the unity council.

Dialogue of charity

As the Pontiff noted then, Bishop Farrell said, there has been great «progress in the dialogue of charity» between the Catholic Church and the Eastern and Orthodox Churches, with exchanges of official visits from leading prelates from both traditions, and with a «sincere spirit of friendship between Catholics and Orthodox that has been growing in recent years.»

«Precisely this progress in the ‘dialogue of charity’ has permitted the ‘theological dialogue’ between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to obtain notable results, even unexpected ones,» he said.

Nevertheless, the Vatican official lamented, questions and lack of trust continue regarding the results of dialogue with the Reformation communities. In 40 years of dialogue, the bishop said, even if «many prejudices and misunderstandings of the past» have been overcome, the old differences still exist.


Bishop Farrell explained that these differences go along two lines: the relationship between Scripture and Tradition on one hand, and the nature of the Church of Christ on the other.

Though agreement has been reached that Scripture and Tradition are not opposed, he said, there is still disagreement about, among other things, the role of the magisterium in interpreting it.

And regarding the nature of the Church, the prelate continued, though the joint declaration regarding the doctrine of justification was a big step forward, there continues to be «profound division» regarding the nature of the Church itself.

«Catholics and Protestants continue deeply divided in the concept of the reality of the Church, between a vision simultaneously spiritual and institutional — Catholic — and a vision exclusively spiritual — Protestant,» he said.

But, Bishop Farrell affirmed, «despite that none of these questions has been resolved in the sense of full consensus, and though new difficulties appear on the horizon, the convergences reached corroborate and deepen the sense of the real, though incomplete, existing communion on the base of one baptism and of so many other elements of faith and Christian life preserved from ancient tradition.»

After recalling that ecumenism is a «gift of God,» the council secretary clarified that though «dialogue cannot be by itself a guarantee of the fulfillment of the final goal of the ecumenical movement, which is Eucharistic unity,» nevertheless, «it constitutes a solid base and an incentive to fulfill what is the will of the Lord and the aspiration of so many Christians.»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

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