Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria (Photo: Ancora Online - Youtube)

INTERVIEW: Feminine Diaconate: 'Only Study, No Decisions Right Away,' Says Archbishop Ladaria

Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Reflects on Role of Ecumenism in Pope Francis’ Pontificate

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The opening of the new academic year took place in the Aula Magna of the Marchigiano Theological Institute of Ancona. Archbishop Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was invited to give the inaugural address on ‘Justification through Faith in Relation to the Ecumenical Dialogue.’ Here is an interview done with him on that occasion:
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In light of Pope Francis’ recent meeting with the Lutheran world, what is at present the status quaestionis of the ecumenical relations with this reality?
Archbishop Ladaria: This event did not pretend to be decisive; nevertheless, it was a significant step in the building of the sphere of mutual understanding in the journey of Christian dialogue. It cannot be denied that it was a meeting of prophetic importance.
Did this event arouse positive reactions in the ecclesial environment that you frequent? 
Archbishop Ladaria: Yes, certainly, decisively.
The Pope focused a lot on the need to stress concrete gestures to be carried out together and on the so-called “theology of life.” Can this style also infect the ecumenical field? 
Archbishop Ladaria: Yes, certainly. If we go forward with this sentiment of concrete sharing, everything will be simpler. Not to show contempt for the doctrinal questions, but it is surely easier to dialogue with a friend by addressing things in a more relaxed way. All the more reason why this is the approach in treating with those with whom there have been misunderstandings.
What is the role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which must provide the framework for this situation? 
Archbishop Ladaria: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith doesn’t have a direct role in this, but it is up to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose specific competence it is. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is very interested in this because it is called to express itself in the doctrinal realm, having to protect the faith according to the fundamental assignments that in his time Paul VI attributed to it, namely, to promote and defend the faith. In this connection, our work is rather ad intra in the Church so that the Catholic faith is protected, studied and lived better. The beauty is that ecumenism triggers our internal reflection.
What is, to this day, the role of Theology in the ministry of the local Church?
Archbishop Ladaria: This is a fundamental reflection because it recalls that the Church is articulated in universal and particular. Vatican Council II stresses that the universal Church, in relation to the particular <Church> is found “ex quibus et in quibus,” finding herself in the local Churches and founding herself on them. This tension between universality and particular realities is very important.
Therefore, what can be the contribution of the theological reflection of the particular Church?
Archbishop Ladaria: The particular Church must certainly pursue further personal theological reflection, yet maintain the balance of its relation with the whole universal Church and it can never make of this reflection something autonomous and not legitimate, aiming, in any case, to have emerge what is the richness of its thought.
One last question. We know that the Pope recently appointed the President of the Commission of Study on the Feminine Diaconate. Can this rediscovery eventually foster the ecumenical dialogue or rather hurt it?
Archbishop Ladaria: In my opinion, at this moment the Pope wants to make an objective study, not to come to a decision, but to study how things were in the early times of the Church. This study doesn’t pretend to have an ecumenical scope. The desire is to give the Holy Father some elements of judgment and nothing more. The Pope has said that “this aspect should be studied, especially in the early times of the Church.” It must be a serene reflection without pressures and without the urgency to come to a decision in a short time.
Source (originally in Italian): L’Ancora online

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Silvio Giampieri

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