2010 PLENARY ASSEMBLY
PROLUSIO OF THE CARDINAL PRESIDENT
Progress in the Ecumenical Journey:
The State of Ecumenism Today
Cardinal Kurt Koch
Even before the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII created the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in June 1960, entrusting it to the then Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and former confessor of Pope Pius XII, the Jesuit Augustin Bea, who would later be known as the ‘Cardinal of unity’ and ‘Cardinal of ecumenism and dialogue’. Pope John XXIII himself may be considered to be the spiritual father of the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church. In order to realise effectively his key aspirations, namely to renew the Catholic Church and to re–establish the visible unity of Christians, which he had linked to the Second Vatican Council, with wise and far–sighted vision he founded the Secretariat, renamed in 1998 ‘Pontifical Council’, which since then has aimed at re–establishing the unity of Christians in common faith, in the sacraments, and in ecclesial ministry. The fact that I start my new responsibilities as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the year that the dicastery celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation is a very pleasant coincidence, which invites us to reflect comprehensively on the state of the ecumenical movement today.
I. The ecumenical heritage of the Catholic Church
With the Second Vatican Council, and above all with the Decree on Ecumenism “Unitatis redintegratio”, the Catholic Church officially entered the ecumenical movement. This ‘point of no return’ has been affirmed by the Pontiffs and been translated into reality in many ways. The ecumenical impetus of the Council was taken up by Pope Paul VI, and even during its proceedings he took a significant ecumenical step towards Orthodoxy with the memorable lifting of the excommunication of 1054, which was undertaken together with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras on 7 December 1965. This act removed the poison of the excommunication from the heart of the Church, and the “symbol of division” was replaced by the “symbol of charity”. The event became the starting point in the ecumenical dialogue of charity and truth between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, with the aim of re–establishing sacramental communion.
Pope John Paul II, especially in his Encyclical on the commitment to ecumenism “Ut unum sint”, explicitly underlined that the ecumenical journey undertaken by the Catholic Church with the Second Vatican Council is irreversible. Taking up these words, Pope Benedict XVI re-emphasised this idea in his message to the delegates and participants at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly held at Sibiu, Romania, in 2007: “With the Second Vatican Council, as my revered predecessor Pope John Paul II observed, the Catholic Church committed itself in an irreversible manner to pursue the path of ecumenical research, allowing itself to heed the Spirit of the Lord, who teaches how to read attentively the signs of the times”. In his first message after his election to the Papal Throne, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed his desire to take up “as a primary duty” the task of “working tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ” and defined the search for unity as his “ambition” and his “urgent duty”.
This clear position testifies to the fact that the ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church is not an option, but a duty. Therefore, there can be no doubt about the irreversible nature of the path that has been undertaken. Pope Benedict himself has shown this clearly, rebutting criticisms made of him in the last years. It is true that the Holy Father has proposed new emphases in relation to the hermeneutic of conciliar pronouncements. In his speech to the Roman Curia on the occasion of the presentation of Christmas Greetings on 22 December 2005, he focused at length on the spiritual legacy of the Second Vatican Council, and noted the distinction between two different hermeneutics: on the one hand, there is a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”, which sees the Second Vatican Council not as part of the living tradition of the Church, but as a moment of rupture. It speaks of the existence of a pre-conciliar Church and a post-conciliar Church, as though we were no longer dealing with the same Church. On the other hand, there is the “hermeneutic of reform”, which acknowledges the continual development in the doctrine of the faith, and connects continuity with tradition and dynamic renewal. In this dialectic between continuity and discontinuity, between fidelity to tradition and renewal, the Holy Father sees the true heart of the reform, as he stated so compellingly in reference to the Second Vatican Council: If we read and receive it “with an authentic hermeneutic to guide us, it can be – and can become ever more powerfully – a force for the necessary renewal of the Church”.
It is with this hermeneutic of reform that we must also read the Decree on Ecumenism. The fact that this document signalled a new direction for the Catholic Church in its relations with other churches and ecclesial communities is so evident that often it does not seem worthy of mention. Yet this new beginning does not signify a rupture with the tradition. That the ecumenical beginning made by the Council lies in basic continuity with tradition can be already seen in the fact that this beginning might not have been possible had not the aspiration for ecumenism (albeit in nascent form) been already present in the Catholic Church long before the Second Vatican Council. An example of this is the Malines Conversations, held in Belgium, which took place with the Anglicans from 1921 to 1926, with the strong support of Pope Pius XI. It should also be remembered that at the beginning of the last century Pope Leo XIII and Pope Benedict XV in particular energetically supported prayer for the unity of Christians, which would come to be defined in “Unitatis Redintegratio” as “the soul of the entire ecumenical movement”. A further impetus to the ecumenical movement was given by Pope Pius XII who, in his 1950 instruction, explicitly praised the ecumenical movement, tracing in it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The fact that the same Pius XII was the most quoted source in the Council (after Sacred Scripture) shows this Pope’s role in preparing the way for the Council with its numerous and far-sighted encyclicals. Pope Benedict XVI underlines this in an address dedicated to the magisterium of Pope Pacelli: “Undoubtedly the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, is a living and vital organism, not lodged motionless in what was the situation fifty years ago. This development, however, has taken place with continuity. Because of this, the legacy of the magisterium of Pius XII was taken up by the Second Vatican Council and proposed anew to successive generations of Christians.”
In a comprehensive analysis of the conciliar Decree on Ecumenism, the Dominican theologian Charles Morerod showed that many of the perspectives in this document are already present in embryonic form in Thomas Aquinas, whose theology “peut jouer un rôle capital dans la compréhension des différences entre chrétiens et dans leur résolution.” Morerod also demonstrated that only a “herméneutique du développement homogène” of the Decree on Ecumenism can effectively explain the intention of the Council itself. As stated explicitly in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church “Lumen gentium”, the Council will continue the theme of previous Councils to illustrate more clearly “to the faithful and the entire world her nature and universal mission.” Cardinal Walter Kasper also said that “the Council started something new”; nevertheless, “not a new church,” but “a renewed church.” In an autobiographical note, he also recalled that his hermeneutic of Vatican II was influenced by the notion of a continuous development and that he could not see the Council “as a rupture, and as the beginning of a new Church”; a rupture “would fundamentally contradict the self–understanding of the Council, and would also contradict its conscious and deliberate rooting in tradition and in the First Vatican Council.”
Looking back on these last fifty years and reviewing the theological legacy of the Second Vatican Council, we can in the first place emphasise many heartening aspects. With satisfaction we note that even within our own Church ecumenism is no longer something on the fringes, but has come to be experienced in the daily lives of many local churches and parishes, ecclesial communities and spiritual movements. This ecumenism of life is of fundamental importance, since, without it, all the theological efforts aimed at reaching a lasting agreement on basic questions of faith between the various churches and ecclesial communities would be in vain. At the theological level as well, in the course of recent decades, we have achieved significant convergences and consensus; these have been gathered together in three large volumes in “Growth in Agreement” and have been treated anew in relation to the results of the theological dialogues with Lutherans, Reformed, Anglicans and Methodists in the volume “Harvesting the Fruits”, which was undertaken by our Pontifical Council and edited by Cardinal Walter Kasper.
II. Ecclesiology as the central question in ecumenism
Despite undeniable successes and fruits in ecumenical dialogue, we are still a long way from our goal of visible unity. Rather, we frequently find ourselves at the point where the Second Vatican Council started out. The Decree on Ecumenism, as we read in its very first sentence, affirms that “the restoration of unity among all Christians” is one of the principal concerns of the Council. It sees the fact that Christ founded “one Church and one Church only”, but “many Christian communities present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ.” Since this situation can create the impression that “Christ himself [is] divided”, the Council maintains that the separation between Christians “openly contradicts the will of Christ”, “scandalizes the world” and damages “the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature”.
1. Ecclesiological consequences of the consensus on the doctrine of justification
With the official signing of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” at Augsburg on 31 October 1999 between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation, fundamental consensus was reached on a crucial question which had led to the division of Western Christianity in the 16th century. The use of the expression “consensus on fundamental questions” indicates that there has not yet been a full consensus on the doctrine of justification and its consequences, particularly in the field of ecclesiology and the theology of ministry. The “Joint Declaration” itself mentions areas that need further clarification: These include, “among other topics, the relationship between the Word of God and church doctrine, as well as ecclesiology, ecclesial authority, church unity, ministry, the sacraments, and the relation between justification and social ethics.” Without a doubt this “Joint Declaration” represents a milestone on the difficult path of restoring full unity among Christians. But a milestone is not a finishing post. Alongside the still unsettled questions about the precise interpretation of the doctrine of justification itself, the remaining questions can be clustered around the understanding of the nature of the Church, as noted by Cardinal Walter Kasper: “After the clarification of fundamental questions on the doctrine of justification, ecclesiological questions are now the priority in the dialogue with the Churches stemming from the Reformation”. For Catholics and Orthodox, these are “essential if there is to be progress on the question of Eucharistic communion, particularly urgent from a pastoral point of view. This is where we find ourselves today”.
This unresolved issue returned decisively to the centre of the Church’s attention with the declaration on the unicity and universality of salvation of Jesus Christ and the Church, “Dominus Iesus”, published in 2000 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This document was intended to counter a theology that relativises religions, and a watering-down of Christology, but public controversy concentrated on the statement in chapter four, according to which the churches born of the Reformation are not “churches in the proper sense”, but “ecclesial communities.” This statement gave rise to a wave of indignation; above all, reformed Christians deeply resented the definition “ecclesial communities.” It is surprising in this case to note that the World Council of Churches, to which indeed around 400 million Christians from more than 340 communities in over 100 countries belong, describes itself as “churches, confessions and ecclesial communities.” It would be interesting then to know which entities within the World Council of Churches are defined as a ‘church’, or ‘ecclesial community’, or indeed as ‘confession.’
2. The Protestant churches in the light of the heritage of the Reformation
It is helpful to reflect on this question by glancing briefly at history. There is a modern sensitivity when the term ‘church’ is not applied, but looking at history we find a quite different sensitivity, one shared by Martin Luther himself, who had a fractured relationship with the term and the reality of the ‘church.’ Towards the end of his life he declared that he did not recognise the Catholic Church as a church, and expressed himself rather harshly towards it: “We do not recognise that they (‘the old believers’) are the church, and they are not church […] the truth is that, thanks be to God, a child of seven years knows what the church is”. Luther’s declaration, published in the Smalkaldic Articles of 1537, was taken up in the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church and is, accordingly, still valid. Set against this, if we read Luther’s polemic work “Against the papacy established in Rome by the devil”, we must agree with the emphatic but significant assessment of the Catholic Church historian Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, who said that the ‘No’ of Luther related to the concept of Catholic ecclesiology: “This radical and total denial, which poured forth from the depths of experience and which, it must be said, was filled with hatred, was directed towards the papacy and together with it the whole church hierarchic and sacramental ordering”. Herein lies the real reason for Luther’s clear preference for the term ‘community’ over the term ‘church’, which he himself defined as “blind and erring”.
At the beginning of the last century, the Protestant historian of the church and dogma Adolf von Harnack maintained that the Reformation and the developments that followed it could not, and should not, move towards a traditional catholic understanding: “Protestantism should undertake a re-evaluation, recognising that it does not wish to, nor can ever be, a church like the Catholic church, and that it should reject all formal authority and rely exclusively only on whatever evokes the message of God, the Father of Jesus Christ and our Father”. Again in 1962 the renowned reformed theologian Karl Barth, eminent author of “Church Dogmatics”, declared in his last lecture entitled “Introduction to Evangelical Theology”: “It is advisable from a theological point of view to avoid, if not always at least as far as possible, the obscure and overworked term ‘church’, and to replace it immediately and consistently with the word ‘community’”. As a result, in the past, various protestant translations of the Bible rendered the term ‘church’ as ‘community’. The 1931 edition of the Zurich Bible, for example, made it clear in a footnote that the word ‘church’ was to be understood as ‘individual community.’
The same problem is evident not only when we look to the past, but also observing the present. Even during the Council, the catholic theologian Erich Przywara, referring to the ecclesial communities of the Reformation tradition, spoke of a “pluriversum”. Within this vast worldwide plurality of ecclesial communities, efforts to achieve a greater internal unity are only marginal. Cardinal Kasper, in his prolusio at a previous Plenary, spoke of the various internal fragmentations within global Protestantism as direct consequences of a “relatively elastic concept of the unity of the Church” and of the spread of new evangelical and charismatic groups. This growing disintegration represents a new ecumenical challenge for the Catholic Church as well, since an increasing number of groups belonging to worldwide Protestantism no longer see themselves being represented by worldwide federations (Reformed or Lutheran), and want to enter directly into talks with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Thus, the Catholic Church finds itself face to face with the serious phenomenon of ecclesial fragmentation, and has to address the delicate question of how to respond to the various requests for dialogue, without putting at risk the dialogues with the confessional world federations already underway.
However, the fact that the ecclesial communities of the Reformation tradition now resolutely understand themselves as churches should be seen in a positive light. They are called to give an account of their own concept of the church not merely from an empirical but a theological point of view. In this context, Cardinal Kasper, commenting on the Declaration “Dominus Iesus”, noted that the ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation should be understood in a sense analogous to that of a church, or rather as “a different type of church.” It is now up to these ecclesial communities to define what a “different type” means. Such an undertaking will facilitate discussion on the nature of the Church, which has long been necessary, and provide a new basis for ecumenical dialogue.
3. The one and only Church of Jesus Christ, and the pluralism of ‘Churches’
The issue of ecclesiology is related to many ecumenical problems that remain unresolved. It is no coincidence that ecumenism has to concentrate so intensely on the understanding of the church. Even at the time of the Second Vatican Council there was a clear interdependence between the opening of the Catholic Church to ecumenism and the renewal of ecclesiology. For both the Pontiffs of the Council, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, ecumenism was a major central theme of the renewal of the Catholic Church and of its self-understanding. During the Council itself, Joseph Ratzinger made reference to this rooting of ecumenism within the general context of the Council and especially within its ecclesiology. The relationship between the singular ‘church’ and the plural ‘churches’ is fundamental for the conciliar renewal of ecclesiology, in the sense that while the one and universal church consists of various local churches, on the other hand, the various local churches exist as the one and only church. As a result, Ratzinger observed that this relationship already makes evident “the ecumenical problem in its entirety”. From an ecumenical point of view, the plural ‘churches’ does not signify the various local churches or sister churches in which the one and universal church is present, but those ecclesial communities which are outside of full communion with the Catholic Church. For Joseph Ratzinger, the particular importance of the second chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church is due to ecumenical reasons, since the diverse levels of membership of the Church is expressed more appropriately through the image of the People of God than through that of the Body of Christ. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the then Cardinal Ratzinger observed that “the entire ecumenical problem” is also concealed in the famous formula “subsistit in.” With this formula the Council sought to emphasise that the Church of Jesus Christ is truly present in the Catholic Church as a concrete subject in history, and not as an abstract reality hidden behind the concrete ecclesial realities and subsequently realised in the various ecclesial communities. The thorny ecumenical issue therefore consists in identifying the way in which the Catholic Church can and should relate to this plural “churches”, which exist outside it or rather in the divided religious communities that are in the process of becoming autonomous. This question arises both in dialogue with the Orthodox Churches and, albeit in a different form, with the churches and ecclesial communities of the Reformation tradition.
a) Autocephaly or primacy in the Universal Church
The definition that best describes Orthodox ecclesiology, and in an analogous way that of the Oriental Orthodox, is Eucharistic ecclesiology, a concept developed first by Russian theologians living in exile in Paris after the First World War, in clear opposition to the centralism of the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church. This ecclesiology emphasises that the Church of Jesus Christ is present and realised in each local church, gathered around its bishop, where the eucharist is celebrated. Since the local church that celebrates the eucharist gathered around its bishop is the representation, actualisation and realisation of the one Church in a particular place, there can in principle be no primacy of the universal church over local churches. Apart from an ecumenical Council, there cannot even be a visible principle or effective principle and organ of the unity of the universal Church, to which are attributed juridical powers, such as the Catholic Church recognises in the Petrine ministry. Since every Eucharistic community is fully the Church and lacks nothing that would render it so, horizontal unity between local churches is not even considered essential or constitutive of being the Church. Such unity is indeed seen as beautiful and pertaining to the fullness of the Church, but is not its constitutive element. This is all the more true in respect of a possible unity between individual eucharistic communities and the Bishop of Rome. This independence of individual Eucharistic communities has however a cost: the central problem of Orthodoxy is exactly the specific concept of autocephaly and the national principle related to it.
According to Catholic ecclesiology, the Church is, indeed, fully present too in concrete Eucharistic community, but the individual Eucharistic community is not the Church in its fullness. Accordingly, unity between individual Eucharistic communities united in their turn to their own bishop and to the Bishop of Rome is not an external ingredient of Eucharistic ecclesiology, but an inner condition of it. This is shown by the mention of the name of the diocesan bishop and of the Bishop of Rome in the Eucharistic Prayer in memento ecclesiae: this mention is not an option that can be avoided according to circumstances, but is the “expression of communio”, “only within which does the individual Eucharistic celebration make sense in its deepest meaning”. The convergences and divergences between Orthodox and Catholic ecclesiology therefore emerge clearly in their respective interpretations of Eucharistic ecclesiology. The Catholic Church shares with Orthodoxy a Eucharistic ecclesiology that allows for “the responsibility of each single community”; however, it differentiates itself from the Orthodox position when it emphasizes a Eucharistic ecclesiology that “rejects self–sufficiency and demands unity with the whole”.
The ecumenical problem in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church resides therefore in the fact that “an ecclesiology tied to a national culture and a Catholic ecclesiology oriented towards the concept of universality find themselves confronting each other, and until now in disagreement”. It is no accident that this problem has arisen in its most acute form over the question of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, and precisely in the sense of primacy at the level of the universal Church and not simply at the regional level. As Pope Paul VI observed, on the one hand this represents the “major obstacle” to the restoration of full ecclesial communion with Orthodoxy. But on the other hand in the eyes of the present Pontiff it also constitutes the “major opportunity” for the same goal because, without primacy, the Catholic Church would long since have broken up into national and sui juris churches, making the ecumenical landscape confused and complicated, and because the primacy can make possible steps towards unity.
In order to move forward, it is on the one hand necessary, as Archbishop Bruno Forte has for some time insisted, for the Catholic Church to deepen the idea that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not simply a juridical ingredient that stands outside Eucharistic ecclesiology, but rather that it is based precisely on it, because the global network of Eucharistic communities needs a ministry serving unity at the universal level as well. On the other hand, the Orthodox Church needs seriously to deal with the problem of autocephaly, an issue of fundamental importance for its own future and for ecumenism. It needs to find satisfactory solutions so that it does not lose its own internal unity and its own ability to act in a concerted manner. It is precisely the problem of autocephaly which shows the urgent need, at a universal level as well, for an organ of ecclesial unity, which must have a balanced relationship with the specific responsibilities of local churches.
In the ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church on ecclesiology in general, and on the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in particular, encouraging steps have been made in the course of recent decades. Especially noteworthy is the Ravenna document of 2007, in which both Churches jointly declared that the Church needs a protos at the local, regional and universal level. From this promising starting point, we now need to clarify from an historical perspective what the role of the Bishop of Rome was during the first millennium of the undivided Church. This question is linked to an impasse that occurred in the last session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole held in Vienna in October 2010, and will accordingly need to be reflected upon further through a systematic study of the relationship between primacy and synodality in the Church.
That said, we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal of ecumenical dialogue, which, for the Catholic Church, can only be the re–establishment of visible ecclesial communion. In fact, as the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger rightly observed, continuing to speak of “our two churches” can mean institutionalising a dualism in the ecclesiological concept, making the idea of the one Church seem like an “imaginary reality”, whereas “for her, it is precisely this living body which is essential”. In overcoming this ecclesiological dualism, great help can be given by the Catholic Oriental Churches, which gathered in the Synod of Bishops in Rome last autumn. On the one hand, they are close to the Oriental Churches from the point of view of theology, liturgy, ecclesial discipline and canon law, yet on the other they are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. In this perspective, their special duty in the work of promoting the unity of Christians was made clear in the Council’s decree “Orientalium ecclesiarum”: “The Eastern Churches in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome have a special duty of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians, in accordance with the principles of the decree on Ecumenism of this Sacred Council”. The Council also recognised the temporary character of the canon law of the Catholic Oriental Churches, explicitly affirming that “[a]ll these directives of law are laid down in view of the present situation until such time as the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches come together in the fullness of communion”. In this sense, the Catholic Oriental Churches fulfil an important bridging function, helping us now to breathe more intensely with two lungs, and promoting “wider contact with the East” also in ecumenism.
b) The Protestant Churches in continuity with or break from Tradition
The ecumenical dialogue with Orthodoxy may also have a positive impact on resolving ecclesiological problems relating to division in the Western Church. In fact, the ecclesiology of the Reformation pivots around the concrete local community, as is clear in the writings of Luther himself. Confronted with the difficulties of his era, Luther felt unable to recognise the Spirit of Christ in the universal Church. Nevertheless, he did not consider the various Protestant national churches, which had already started to develop at the time, as Church in the theological sense; rather, he saw them as socio–political entities that, in the absence of other authorities, were governed by political forces. It is for this reason that he defined the term ‘Church’ in a negative way, attributing its theological sense to the term ‘community’. In line with this tradition, the concrete local community continues even today to be the gravitational point of Protestant ecclesiology. The Church of Jesus Christ is fully present in the concrete community that gathers in the liturgical celebration around the Word and Sacrament. In the well–known definition contained in the Augsburg Confession, the church is considered to be the assembly of believers in which the Gospel is taught in its purity and the sacraments are correctly administered. Since this is realised in the local community, not only does the Church of Jesus Christ subsist in the individual concrete community, but the local community is the prototype of the realisation of the Church.
Protestant ecclesiology also holds that individual communities are in a relationship of mutual exchange with the others. The trans–community dimension of the Church exists implicitly, although it is secondary, and even more so the universal dimension of the Church. In fact, even the worldwide federations, such as those of the Lutheran and Reformed, are not themselves church but alliances of churches which, at most, are transforming themselves into ecclesial community. Thus, we come across the same problems as those we encounter in the dialogue with the Orthodox Church, but in a more acute form. There emerges the difficult ecumenical question of how to relate Catholic ecclesiology with its dialectic between the plurality of the local Churches and the unity of the universal Church, and Protestant ecclesiology which sees the concrete community as the most authentic realisation of the Church, and of how it may be possible to arrive at substantial consensus on the issue.
A further complication lies in the fact that the sacramental dimension of the Church is an extremely contentious point. In contrast to the churches and ecclesial communities deriving from the Reformation, the Catholic Church has a clearly sacramental ecclesiology, according to which the Church is not primarily an assembly of people professing the same faith, but is a sacramental foundation instituted in the Last Supper Room which is realised in every eucharistic celebration, as highlighted already by Joseph Ratzinger in his doctoral thesis with the telling formula: “The Church is the people of God only in the Body of Christ and only through the Body of Christ”.
This fundamental difference has an impact above all on the ecumenical question of eucharistic communion. For the Catholic Church, the obstacle to celebrating the eucharist together derives principally from the concept of sacramental ecclesiology, that is, the conviction – which can be found in the early Church – that communion in Christ, ecclesial communion and eucharistic communion are not separable but intimately united. This does not mean negating the primacy of Jesus Christ in the sacraments, but it does question the absolute separation, by Protestants, of the sacramental sign and its author. While it is inconceivable in Catholic ecclesiology that such a separation between Jesus Christ and the Church should exist precisely in the eucharist, the Catholic Church can accord with the Protestant concept in which it is Christ who extends the invitation to the Lord’s Supper, but must make the following clarification: while it is Christ who invites, the invitation is conveyed by a minister whose ordination and mission are founded in Christ, and is therefore itself a sacrament.
Therein lies a further difference. On the one hand, Protestant theology defines the Church on the exclusive basis of the Word of God proclaimed “pure et recte” and of the sacraments administered according to the Gospel, and understands the Word of God as a reality that can be known independently and self–sufficiently with respect to the Church, and that can act as an independent corrective for the ministry. On the other, the Catholic Church considers and recognises the apostolic ministry as a third criteria for the Church: “She does not consider the Word as being quasi–hypostatic and self–sufficient with respect to the Church”, but rather, conceives the Word as living “in the Church, just as the Church lives in the Word – in mutual dependence and relation”.
These ecclesiological questions should be at the heart of the ecumenical dialogue with the churches and ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation. It would be useful in the dialogue to have a response on the part of Protestants regarding the way in which today the ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation see themselves and in which the Reformation is self–defined: either as a countdown to modern times and the rising star of modernity, insofar as it represented the decisive break with the past, or as a development in fundamental continuity with 1,500 years of Christian church history. It is interesting to note that Bishop Wolfgang Huber, former President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, affirmed that the Evangelical Church is the Catholic Church that went through the Reformation. In this perspective, the ecclesial communities deriving from the Reformation are seen to be in fundamental continuity with the tradition of the Church. It is to be hoped that such a theological understanding may prevail, making it possible to find satisfactory answers to this issue, particularly in view of the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Cardinal Kasper had already in the past asked the ecclesial communities of the Reformation to define their self–understanding and to clarify whether they consider the Reformation in basically the same way as the Reformers had themselves, that is as a “reform and renewal of the universal Church”, or rather as a new Christian and ecclesiological paradigm “which distances itself markedly in a ‘Protestant manner’ from the Catholic world due to an enduring fundamental difference”.  The future direction of ecumenical discussion on the theological nature of the Church will depend on the response to this question.
III. The contentious goal of ecumenism
Theological clarification on ecclesiology ought to be the foremost issue in ecumenical dialogue. The third chapter of “Harvesting the Fruits”, which summarises the outcomes of forty years of work on the ecclesiological question, could serve as a starting point. The elaboration of a common ecclesiology could lead to a “Joint Declaration” similar to that on the doctrine of justification or at least an in via Declaration as proposed by the Protestant ecumenist Harding Meyer; such an outcome would represent a decisive step towards visible ecclesial communion. In fact, there can be no ecclesial unity if there is not first a clear concept the theological nature of the Church.
1. The unity of the Church and the ecumenical goal
Arriving at an ecumenical understanding of the church has become today a question of unprecedented urgency, particularly as it holds the key to resolving the main impasse in the actual ecumenical situation, that is, the fact that the various churches and ecclesial communities have not yet been able to reach a consensus on the goal of the ecumenical movement itself, which indeed has become even more obscure over time. This fact illustrates the paradoxical nature of the modern ecumenical situation: on the one hand, it has been possible to achieve wide and encouraging convergences and consensus on many particular issues; on the other, today our remaining differences can be traced back to the different confessional interpretations of what the unity of the Church itself means. This complex problem needs to be seriously confronted once and for all. In fact, only when we have a clear view of the goal of the ecumenical movement will we be able to identify and subsequently to take the necessary steps on our journey together.
The lack of consensus on the goal of the ecumenical movement is due fundamentally to the lack of ecumenical consensus on the nature of the Church and of its unity. As every church and ecclesial community has and realises its own confessional understanding of its specific church unity, and understandably brings this understanding to bear on the goal of the ecumenical movement, there are consequently as many ideas of the goal of the ecumenical movement as there are Christian churches and ecclesial communities. The diversity in the confessional interpretations of church and ecclesial unity is the underlying reason why it is impossible to move without friction beyond specific ecclesiologies towards a compatible ecumenical model of unity and communion. This is particularly true when such a model is not discussed adequately in the ecumenical dialogue, with each side preferring to treat its own confessional ecclesiology in absolute terms, thereby giving rise to the suspicion of “wishing surreptitiously to impose a particular confessional typology (that is, its own)”.
Experience tells us that no church is immune to this temptation, and that it is particularly evident in the ecumenical dialogue with the churches and ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation. In the Leuenberg Agreement of 1973, they developed their own model of ecclesial communion, which was introduced within the Leuenberg communion of churches. According to this model, ecclesial communion requires a common interpretation of the Gospel, based on the message of justification, which is considered to be the “measure of all the Church’s preaching.” On the basis of the common interpretation of the Gospel, the churches of the Leuenberg Agreement declare themselves to be in fellowship with one another in Word and Sacrament, and accord each other mutual recognition of their respective ordination and the possibility of intercelebration. Thus, church communion is essentially a matter of pulpit and altar communion between churches with remaining different confessional traditions.
Wilhelm Hüffmeier has rightly stated that as this model was “approved in a Reformed context and successfully implemented in the Leuenberg Agreement”, it represents “the Protestant model of ecclesial communion.” In fact, this confessional model of ecclesial communion has proven to be successful in the Protestant world. However, as the churches and ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation consider that this model is also valid for ecumenism, they transfer their own confessional concept of unity also to the level of the ecumenical goal, so that there is an underlying implication that we Catholics ought to become Protestants in order to make further progress in ecumenism. Yet the Catholic Church, like the Orthodox Church, remains faithful to the principle, which was already recognised in the early Church, of the inseparability of ecclesial communion and confessional communion, and it commits itself on the ecumenical level so that the various churches may recognise each other as sister churches in order to work together towards the goal of ecumenism, which is visible unity in the communion of faith, sacraments and ecclesial ministry. The true goal of ecumenism, as often reiterated by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is therefore “the transformation of the plurality of the separate denominational churches into the plurality of local churches, which, in reality, form one Church.”
2. The abandonment of the ecumenical goal and the need to safeguard the outcomes already achieved
In the light of the above, we can see the seriousness of the problem regarding the lack of a common understanding of Church and unity in the contemporary ecumenical situation. The churches and ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation generally define their ecumenical model of unity in terms of the formula ‘reconciled diversity’. Although not without its own truth and beauty, this formula runs the risk of being used by all but never in the same way. Catholics see it as an acceptable way of expressing the goal of the ecumenical commitment, in the sense that ecumenism is essentially a process of reconciliation in which the various churches, after clarifying and overcoming all the divergences which are a source of division, may recognise each other as the one Church of Jesus Christ and may be able to give a visible form to this unity. In contrast, Protestants often do not see it as the goal of the ecumenical movement, but rather as the adequate description of the ecumenical outcomes that have already been achieved and therefore of the current ecumenical situation, in the sense that they understand ecclesial communion as an assembly of churches of diverse confessional traditions which recognise each other as churches. In fact, the Leuenberg Agreement aims neither at a profession of unity of faith nor the visible unity of the Church. Rather, it envisages that the individual churches retain their own church government, while committing themselves to working together and recognising each other’s respective ministries.
Inevitably one reaches the conclusion that the churches and ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation have abandoned the original ecumenical goal of visible unity and have substituted it with the concept of mutual recognition as churches, which is already feasible. The Catholic ecumenist Peter Neuner regrets that many in the Protestant and Reformed churches, and indeed not a few Catholics, do not consider that ecumenical goal is the reestablishment of ecclesial communion, but rather simply intercommunion; once this has been achieved, “all the rest can remain the same.” It is clear that there is a profound difference between this Protestant vision and the Catholic and Orthodox understanding, which holds that the ecumenical goal cannot be intercommunion but “communion within which eucharistic communion has its place”. This conviction underlies the inseparability of ecclesial communion and eucharistic communion for the Roman Catholic Church, as well as for the majority of Christian churches. In fact, most Christian churches have remained faithful to the conviction affirmed already by the early Church according to which there can be “no true and authentic eucharistic communion” without ecclesial communion, and, vice–versa, there can be “no full ecclesial communion” without the eucharist.
In contrast, the churches and ecclesial communities originating in the Reformation tend to hold that the ecumenical goal has already been achieved with the common celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and that the churches may thus continue to remain divided while offering each other mutual recognition. Therefore, they have no further need of unification, but merely of mutual recognition in their respective diversity and, in part, confessional contradiction.  For them, the visible unity of the Church is nothing more than the sum of the various churches. As an analogy, the image comes to mind of many individual households in which families live independently, limiting themselves to inviting one another to lunch once in a while. However, this image seems irreconcilable with the biblical image of the one Body of Christ and with the prayer of Christ himself “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:21). A mere ecclesiological pluralism based on the sum of different parts, in the sense that all the ecclesial realities are nothing more than “fragments of a true church that exists nowhere” and that this Church “must be created by assembling these pieces” certainly cannot be the icon of the divine Trinity, but reduces the unity of the church to the “work of a man”, as Cardinal Ratzinger rightly pointed out. Such pluralism also contrasts with the Catholic conviction that the true Church of Jesus Christ ‘subsists’ in the Catholic Church, or rather, that it is already an existing reality, “without having to deny that others are Christian or to dispute the fact that their communities have an ecclesial character”.
This concept of ecclesial pluralism which is so prevalently shared today is the most profound reason why the ecumenical movement has lost its initial enthusiasm and its firm determination to seek the visible unity of the Church of Christ, with all its indispensable and inalienable diversity. Many seem to have come to terms with the current state of diversity and are content with the de facto pluralism of the different churches. For them, the already ‘tolerated’ diversity between the churches suffices, and they do not see why this needs to be overcome in favour of a genuinely ‘reconciled’ diversity. We are faced today with two profoundly different attitudes: on the one hand, there is an ecumenism which continues to seek the visible unity of the church, working and praying for this unity; on the other, there is an ecumenism which considers that what has already been achieved is sufficient and is satisfied in maintaining the status quo, wishing to affirm through the practice of eucharistic communion and continuing, for all the rest, to live as separated churches. There is a real risk that this attitude offers nothing other than a easy consolation in the face of the scandal of church division, which remains the fruit of sin, and that it offers nothing more than an ecumenical ‘sedative’ at a time when what we really need is a ‘tonic’ to strengthen and deepen the will of the churches to make visible the unity of the Body of Christ, which is already present in their faith in Jesus Christ, and to make it fruitful in daily life, in line with the great visionary ecumenical spirit of the Second Vatican Council.
This paradigm shift has a deep effect on many Christians, and also within the Catholic Church, and closely corresponds to the unquestioningly accepted modern spirit of pluralism and relativism. Its basic dogma affirms that one neither can nor may inquire beyond the plurality of reality if one does not wish to be open to the suspicion of intellectual totalitarianism, and also that plurality may be the only way that totality is revealed to us, if it is revealed at all. This abandonment of the concept of unity is characteristic of post–modernism, which “not only accepts and tolerates pluralism, but accords it a fundamental preference.” Moreover, the post–modern mentality forms the basis of today’s pluralistic religious trends, whose premise is that there is not only a diversity of religions but also a plurality of divine revelations, and consequently that Christ too is only one among many prophets and saviours. In the ecumenical context, there is a parallelism between this religious pluralism and ecclesiological pluralism, and thus any attempt to achieve unity in ecumenism too is regarded with suspicion. At the very most, unity is understood to be the tolerant recognition of plurality and diversity; indeed, such recognition is considered to be the realisation of reconciled diversity. Because the flowering meadow of the different confessional churches is like an invitation to mutual growth and prosperity; it is understood as a more reasonable representation of Christian unity than the ‘monoculture’ of one Church.
IV. Ecumenism put to the test
Without doubt, today’s largest challenge for ecumenism is – in view of the post–modern situation of a pluralistic, and relativistic ‘anything goes’ mentality – how one can sense at all the fundamental ecumenical task of searching for visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ. Christian ecumenism cannot accept this challenge by adapting itself to the post–modern paradigm, but instead, must also keep present the question of unity today by means of a determined benevolence, because Christian faith would abandon itself without the search for unity. For unity is, and remains, a “fundamental category of the Bible” as well as Tradition, confessing one God, one redeemer, one Spirit, one Baptism, and one Church (cf. Eph 4:4–6).
1. Ecumenism and mission
The intense search for unity is also motivated by another fact, which is highlighted in the anniversary of an event we were able to celebrate last year. The first World Missionary Conference was held one hundred years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, with the aim of addressing and responding to the scandal of division. The competitiveness of the separated Christian churches and communities in the field of mission undermined the credibility of the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, particularly in distant lands, as the Gospel was brought to these lands together with the divisions of the Church in Europe. The missionary Anglican bishop Charles Brent spoke at Edinburgh of the need to make greater efforts to overcome differences of doctrinal and ecclesial order obstructing the path to unity, given that credible witness to the salvific work of Jesus Christ in the world could only be possible if the churches overcame their differences in doctrine and ecclesial life.
Since then, or rather since the explicit recognition that the separation of Christians constitutes the greatest obstacle to mission in the world, evangelisation has become one of the fundamental themes of ecumenism. Since Edinburgh, the ecumenical commitment and the missionary endeavour have come to be seen as indivisible realities. Ecumenism and mission have become twin sisters, seeking and supporting each another. This pairing reflects the will of Christ, who prayed for unity “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). With these concluding words, the Gospel of John highlights that the unity of Christ’s disciples is not an end in itself, but is at the service of the credible proclamation of the Gospel in the world.
The close relationship between ecumenism and mission is demonstrated by the fact that wherever there is a weakened missionary impetus, there is also a diminished search for Christian unity; and vice–versa wherever the scandal of separation is something to which people have become accustomed or indeed is no longer even considered scandalous, missionary efforts also wane. The new evangelisation, which has become a question of urgency in the modern world, can only succeed if the original ecumenical goal is revived, that is, to find the visible unity of Christians. Therefore, Christian witness must seek an ecumenical musical key, so that its melody may be symphonic rather than discordant. The ecumenical movement must once again today serve missionary endeavours, with the enthusiasm already discernible in the words of Cardinal Walter Kasper: “If we give witness together, our voice will surely be more credible”.
It is therefore particularly beautiful and significant that Pope Benedict XVI created a new Pontifical Council for promoting the new evangelization in the very year in which we celebrate the centenary of the World Missionary Conference and also the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. All the churches living in traditionally Christian territories need a “renewed missionary impulse, an expression of a new, generous openness to the gift of grace”. Indeed, it is not a “human plan of expansion” which lies at the root of all evangelization, but rather the “desire to share the inestimable gift that God has wished to give us, making us sharers in his own life”. As the fundamental task of evangelization is to bring humans closer to the mystery of God and to introduce them to a personal relationship with God, the heart of the new evangelization must necessarily be the question of God, which we for our part must approach from an ecumenical point of view, bearing in mind, as Pope Benedict XVI has reflected, that whoever does not give God, gives too little.
2. The ecumenism of the martyrs
The most credible witnesses to the faith and the most credible exegetes of the Gospel are without doubt the martyrs, who have given their very lives for the faith. In the average awareness of not a few Christians today, the themes of ‘martyrdom’ and ‘persecution of Christians’ belong to the past. These words are principally consigned to historical memory. One calls to mind, for example, the stoning of Stephen narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. One calls to mind the various waves of persecution in the early era of Christianity which the Roman emperors used to purge society of atheists, as Christians were once called. Certainly, there is also public awareness of the 20th century, during which many Christians were persecuted and killed for the sake of their faith under the regime of the terror of national–socialism and communism. However, there is no longer talk today of the persecution of Christians, even though the end of the second millennium and the start of the third have seen Christianity once again become the Church of martyrs.
The Christian faith has become the most persecuted in today’s world. In 2008 alone, of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world, 230 million were victims, for the sake of their faith, of discrimination, abuse, intense hostility and even outright persecution. This means that 80% of those who are persecuted today for their faith are Christians. The Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte has presented the following unsettling appraisal: “If we take the international standards of human rights as our criterion, the situation of these Christians is often a real catastrophe. Those involved in this disaster have become accustomed to it, and our secularised society takes cognisance, if ever it does, only when the circumstances are so exceptional that waves of refugees are displaced throughout the world.”
This devastating appraisal represents a vast challenge to all the Christian churches, which are called to an authentic solidarity. Many Christian churches and communities have their martyrs. It is therefore appropriate to speak of an ‘ecumenism of the martyrs’. This in itself enfolds a beautiful promise: notwithstanding the drama of division among the churches, the unshakeable witnesses of the faith in all the Christian churches and communities have demonstrated that God Himself maintains communion among the baptised at a far deeper level through a faith which is witnessed with the supreme sacrifice of life. While we as Christians and we as churches continue to live in imperfect communion on this earth, the martyrs in heavenly glory are already in full and realised communion. As Pope John Paul II clearly highlighted in his encyclical on ecumenism “Ut unum sint”, the martyrs “are the most powerful proof that every factor of division can be transcended and overcome in the total gift of self for the sake of the Gospel.”
As Christians, we must live in the hope that the blood of the martyrs of our own time may become the seed of full unity in the Body of Christ. Yet we must give witness to this hope in a credible way by offering authentic help to Christians who are persecuted throughout the world, publicly speaking out against situations that underlie martyrdom and committing ourselves to safeguarding the respect for religious freedom and human dignity. This constitutes the urgent kairological responsibility of Christians, which must be experienced in ecumenical communion.
3. Ecumenism and spirituality
The most profound essence of ecumenical spirituality, which is so absolutely necessary today, can be traced to the martyrological dimension of ecumenism. With this, we come to a perspective which is fundamental for the ecumenical commitment. To illustrate this, I would like to refer once again to Edinburgh. Two movements emerged from the World Missionary Conference which have continued to be part of ecumenism: on the one hand, we have the ‘practical approach to Christianity’ embodied in the “Life and Work” movement, which promotes an intensive cooperation among the churches in response to the challenges of society, and on the other, the “Faith and Order” movement, which aims at resolving the problems relating to doctrine and ecclesial constitution which present obstacles to practical cooperation among the churches. As in the past, ecumenism today and in the future will need to walk on both its legs: on the one hand, the theological and spiritual ecumenism will need to respond to secular challenges; on the other, the social and ethical ecumenism will need the theological and spiritual ecumenism in order to maintain a Christian identity.
The problem arises when one of the two legs becomes paralyzed. We run this risk even today, when a preference is made for the approach of “Life and Work” over that of “Faith and Order”. Not infrequently, themes of a social or ethic nature are placed ahead of spiritual or theological questions to such a great extent that the impression can be given that the latter, in all probability, will be in danger of falling behind. Even within the fundamental ecumenical issue on Church unity and its relationship to the unity of humanity, the ethical aspect has often overshadowed the sacramental dimension. With regard to developments in the World Council of Churches, the Protestant ecumenist Wolfhart Pannenberg has rightly warned of the risk inherent in the shift from the sacramental–symbolic to the ethical–secular understanding of the relationship between the unity of the Church and the unity of humanity, identifying in such a shift not a surplus but rather a deficit in the theology of the history of salvation.
And yet we can only make progress in ecumenism if we return to its spiritual roots and seek a renewed ecumenical spirituality. It is not a coincidence that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity emerged at the very beginning of the ecumenical movement. Initially promoted by Paul Wattson, an American Anglican who later entered the Catholic Church, and by Spencer Jones, an Episcopalian, the initiative was introduced throughout the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XV and later developed by Abbé Paul Couturier, a passionate pioneer of spiritual ecumenism. We reflect on these origins not simply in an historical perspective, as a reality confined to the past, but as a beginning which continues to accompany us on our journey, for even today the ecumenical commitment is in need of a deepened spirituality, which the Second Vatican Council described as the “soul of the whole ecumenical movement”.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has dedicated itself to this theme over the last few years, presenting the fruits of its work in the text “A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism.”  However, it should be acknowledged that ecumenical spirituality has not yet made a sufficient impact on the daily life of the Churches. We should reflect on how our Pontifical Council could promote the rediscovery and revival of the spiritual roots of all ecumenical commitment. For even today, the credibility of ecumenism either stands or falls on the deepening of its spiritual dynamism and on whether the dialogue of charity and the dialogue of truth are mutually enriching. Moreover, ecumenical spirituality reminds Christians that we do not ‘make’ unity or determine its time and form, but rather we only receive it is a gift. Pope Benedict XVI affirmed this himself when he stated: “The persistent call to prayer for full communion between the followers of the Lord expresses the most genuine and profound approach of the whole ecumenical search because, in the first place, unity is a gift of God”.  It is up to us, however, to make every effort to achieve it with the same fervour that is the well–spring of patience, which – as Charles Péguy expresses beautifully – “is the little sister of hope”.
Ecumenical hope predominantly lies in a basic conviction that the ecumenical movement is the great work of the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit has initiated this endeavour, and that we would be showing little faith were we not to trust in him who will also fulfil this work – when, where, and how he wishes to do it. With this hope, we keep going on the journey of ecumenism, which, considering today’s difficult situation – already signifies a great deal, and is the one necessary thing that we need to do.
 S. Schmidt, Augustin Bea. The Cardinal of Unity, New York 1992; id., Agostino Bea. Cardinale dell’ecumenismo e del dialogo, Roma 1996.
 Cf. H. J. Pottmeyer, Die Öffnung der römisch-katholischen Kirche für die Ökumenische Bewegung und die ekklesiologische Reform des 2. Vatikanums. Ein wechselseitiger Einfluss, in: Paolo VI e l’Ecumenismo. Colloquio Internazionale di Studio Brescia 1998, Brescia–Roma 2001, 98–117.
 Cf. Pontificio Consiglio per la promozione dell’Unità dei Cristiani (ed.), Unità dei Cristiani. Dovere e speranza. Per il 50° Anniversario dell’Istituzione del Pontificio Consiglio per la promozione dell’Unità dei Cristiani (1960–2010) = Christian Unity: Duty and Hope. For the 50th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (1960–2010), Roma 2010).
 Cf. Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (ed.), Tomos Agapis, Rome–Istanbul, 1971. This volume collects the speeches and letters exchanged between Rome and Constantinople from 1958 to 1970.
 J. Ratzinger, Rom und die Kirchen des Ostens nach der Aufhebung der Exkommunikation von 1054, in: id., Theologische Prinzipienlehre. Bausteine zur Fundamentaltheologie, München 1982, 214–230.
 Benedict XVI, Message to the delegates and participants at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, held in Sibiu, in: Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI, III 2 2007, Città del Vaticano 2008, 150–153.
 Benedict XVI, Message to the Universal Church at the end of Holy Mass with the Cardinal Electors in the Sistine Chapel, in: Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI, I 2005, Città del Vaticano 2006, 1–7.
 Cf. K. Koch, “Streit um das Konzil. Stellungnahme zur gegenwärtigen Situation in unserer Kirche”, in: W. Beinert (ed.), Vatikan und Pius-Brüder. Anatomie einer Krise, Freiburg i. Br. 2009, 113–128. This vision has been confirmed by many authors in the ecumenical field: K. Nikolakopoulos (ed.), Benedikt XVI. und die Orthodoxe Kirche. Bestandsaufnahmen, Erwartungen, Perspektiven, St. Ottilien 2008; W. G. Rusch (ed.), The Pontificate of Benedict XVI. Its Premises and Promises, Michigan–Cambridge 2009; W. Thiede (ed.), Der Papst aus Bayern. Protestantische Wahrnehmungen, Leipzig 2010.
 Benedict XVI, “Una giusta ermeneutica per leggere e recepire il Concilio come grande forza di rinnovamento della chiesa”, in: Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI, I 2005, Città del Vaticano 2006, 1018–1032, cit. 1028.
 Unitatis redintegratio, 8.
 Cf. P. Chenaux (ed.), L’eredità del Magistero di Pio XII, Città del Vaticano 2010.
 Benedict XVI, “Un insegnamento inestimabile: Ecco il Magisterio di Pio XII”, in: Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI, IV 2 2008, Città del Vaticano 2009, 635–639, cit. 638.
 J. Morerod, “Unitatis redintegratio entre deux herméneutiques”, in: Revue thomiste 110 (2010) 25–71, cit. 69.
 Ibid., 68.
 Lumen gentium, 1.
 W. Kasper, “The Decree on Ecumenism – Read Anew After Forty Years” in: Searching for Christian Unity, New York, 2007. (Paper given at the conference for the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Conciliar Decree Unitatis redintegratio held at Rocca di Papa on 11 November 2004).
 W. Kasper, Die Kirche Jesu Christi – auf dem Weg zu einer Communio-Ekklesiologie, in: id., Die Kirche Jesu Christi = Gesammelte Schriften., Freiburg i. Br. 2008, vol. 11, 15–120, cit. 24. Ad hoc English translation provided here.
 Cf. H. Meyer and L. Vischer (ed.), Growth in Agreement, New York 1984; J. Gros, H. Meyer and W. R. Rusch, Growth in Agreement II, Geneva–Grand Rapids 1992.
 W. Kasper, Harvesting the Fruits. Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue, London 2009.
 Unitatis redintegratio, 1.
 Cf. B. J. Hilberath / W. Pannenberg (ed.), Zur Zukunft der Ökumene. Die “Gemeinsame Erklärung zur Rechtfertigungslehre”, Regensburg 1999; E. Pulsfort / R. Hanusch (ed.), Von der “Gemeinsamen Erklärung” zum “Gemeinsamen Herrenmahl”? Perspektiven der Ökumene im 21. Jahrhundert, Regensburg 2002.
 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by Faith, no.43.
 “Avec la signature du Document, nous avons atteint une pierre milliaire mais nous ne sommes pas parvenus au terme du chemin. La pleine unité visible des chrétiens et leur communion n’est pas encore un fait.” Thus W. Kasper, ‘Un motif d’Espérance: La Déclaration commune sur la doctrine de la Justification’, in: id., L’Espérance est possible, Langres 2002, 59–76, cit. 70.
 Cf. K. Lehmann, “Einig im Verständnis der Rechtfertigungsbotschaft? Erfahrungen und Lehren im Blick auf die gegenwärtige ökumenische Situation, Bonn 1998; J. Ratzinger, ‘Wie weit trägt der Konsens über die Rechtfertigungslehre?”, in: Communio. Internationale Katholische Zeitschrift 29, 2000, 424–437; T. Schneider and G. Wenz (ed.), Gerecht und Sünder zugleich? Ökumenische Klärungen, Freiburg i. Br. – Göttingen 2001.
 W. Kasper, “Situation und Zukunft der Ökumene”, in: Theologische Quartalschrift 181, 2001, 175–190, cit. 186.
 Cf. M. Gagliardi (ed.), La Dichiarazione Dominus Iesus a dieci anni dalla promulgazione, Torino 2010.
 Cf. G. L. Müller (ed.), Die Heilsuniversalität Christi und der Kirche. Originaltexte und Studien der römischen Glaubenskongregation zur Erklärung “Dominus Jesus”, Würzburg 2003; C. Schönborn, “Dominus Iesus” und der interreligiöse Dialog, in: E. Kapellari / H. Schambeck (ed.), Diplomatie im Dienst der Seelsorge. Festschrift für Nuntius Erzbischof Donato Squicciarini, Graz 2002, 113–123; M. Stickelbroeck, “Christus und die Religionen. Der Anspruch der christlichen Offenbarung im Hinblick auf die Religionen der Welt”, in: J. Kreiml (ed.), Christliche Antworten auf die Fragen der Gegenwart. Grundlinien der Theologie Papst Benedikts XVI, Regensburg 2010, 66–103.
 Cf. M. J. Rainer (ed.), “Dominus Jesus”. Anstössige Wahrheit oder anstössige Kirche? Dokumente, Hintergründe, Standpunkte und Folgerungen, Münster 2001.
 Pope Benedict XVI sees in this term, which could nonetheless be improved, an attempt “to capture what is distinctive about Protestant Christianity and to give it a positive expression”, recalling that the Second Vatican Council had reflected that “church in the proper sense […] exists where the episcopal office, as the sacramental expression of apostolic succession, is present – which also implies the existence of the Eucharist as a sacrament that is dispensed by the bishop and by the priest”. Where this is missing, “we are dealing with […] a new way of understanding what a church is”. The term “ecclesial community” was intended to indicate “a different mode of being a church. As they themselves insist, it is precisely not the same mode in which the Churches of the great tradition of antiquity are Churches, but is based on a new understanding”. Benedict XVI, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times. A Conversation with Peter Seewald, London–San Francisco 2010, 95.
 Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch–lutherischen Kirche, Göttingen 1976, 459. Ad hoc English translation provided here.
 W. Brandmüller, “Die Reformation Martin Luthers in katholischer Sicht“, in: id., Licht und Schatten. Kirchengeschichte zwischen Glaube, Fakten und Legenden, Augsburg 2007, 102–120, cit. 111. Ad hoc English translation provided here.
 WA 50, 625.
 “Briefwechsel mit Adolf v. Harnack und ein Epilog“, in: E. Peterson, Theologische Traktate = Ausgewählte Schriften I, Würzburg 1994, 175–194, cit. 182.
 K. Barth, Einführung in die evangelische Theologie, Zürich 1962, 35.
 E. Przywara, “Römische Katholizität – All-christliche Ökumenizität”, in: J. B. Metz et al. (ed.)., Gott in Welt. Festgabe für Karl Rahner, Freiburg i. Br. 1964, vol. II, 524–528.
 W. Kasper, “Situation und Zukunft der Ökumene”, in: Theologische Quartalschrift 181 (2001) 175–190, cit. 185.
 J. Ratzinger, Das Konzil auf dem Weg. Rückblick auf die zweite Sitzungsperiode des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils, (English: The Council in Progress. Retrospective of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council), Köln 1964, 51.
 J. Ratzinger, “Einleitung”, in: Konstitution über die Kirche. Lateinisch-Deutsch, Münster 1966, 7–19, especially 12–13.
 J. Ratzinger, “Die Ekklesiologie der Konstitution Lumen gentium”, in: id., Weggemeinschaft des Glaubens. Kirche als Communio, Augsburg 2002, 107–131, cit. 127.
 Cf. K. Koch, Dass alle eins seien. Ökumenische Perspektiven, Augsburg 2006, especially Chapter II: ‘Systematische Verortung des ökumenischen Kernproblems’.
 Cf. C. Lange / K. Pinggéra (ed.), Die altorientalischen Kirchen. Glaube und Geschichte, Darmstadt 2010; A. Nichols, Rome and the Eastern Churches. A Study in Schism, San Francisco 2010.
 Cf. J. Oeldemann, Orthodoxe Kirchen im ökumenischen Dialog. Positionen, Probleme, Perspektiven, Paderborn 2004.
 Within Orthodoxy, several authors declare themselves favourable to an enlargement of ecclesial conscience, as for example the Russian Orthodox theologian A. Schmemann, in Eucharistie. Sakrament des Gottesreiches (Einsiedeln 2005) 137: “Kirche ist nicht nur ‘quantitativ’, sondern auch ‘qualitativ’ und ontologisch mehr als die Pfarrei; und die Pfarrei ist Kirche nur soweit sie an der Fülle der Kirche teilhat, sich selbst ‘transzendiert’ und ihre innere und natürliche Selbstzentriertheit und Verengung auf alles spezifisch ‘Lokale’ überwindet.” (English: Church is not only ‘quantitative’ but also ‘qualitative’ and is ontologically more than the parish, and the parish is Church only insofar as it participates in the fullness of the Church, so that it ‘transcends’ itself and its inward and natural self-centeredness, and overcomes the narrowness of everything specifically ‘local’.)
 W. Kasper, “Einheit und Vielfalt der Aspekte der Eucharistie. Zur neuerlichen Diskussion um Grundgestalt und Grundsinn der Eucharistie”, in: id., Theologie und Kirche, Mainz 1987, 300–320, cit. 316.
 Benedict XVI, Gottes Projekt. Nachdenken über Schöpfung und Kirche (English: God’s Project. Thinking about Creation and Church) Regensburg 2009, 108.
 W. Kasper, “Ökumene zwischen Ost und West. Stand und Perspektiven des Dialogs mit den orthodoxen Kirchen”, in: Stimmen der Zeit 128, 2003, 151–164, cit. 157.
 Cf. A. Garuti, Patriarca d’Occidente? Storia e attualità, Bologna 2007; N. Bux / A. Garuti, Pietro ama e unisce. La responsabilità personale del papa per la Chiesa universale, Bologna 2006.
 J. Ratzinger, “Briefwechsel zwischen Metropolit Damaskinos und Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger”, in: id., Weggemeinschaft des Glaubens. Kirche als Communio, Augsburg 2002, 187–209, cit. 203.
 B. Forte, “Il primato nell’eucaristia. Considerazioni ecumeniche intorno al ministero petrino nella Chiesa”, in: Asprenas 23, 1976, 391–410. Cf. also A. Garuti, “Ecclesiologia Eucaristica e primato del Vescovo di Roma”, in: R. Karwacki (ed.), Benedictus qui venit in Nomine Domini, Radom 2009, 455–472.
 With reference to this controversy between Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Ratzinger (between 1999 and 2001), which resulted in a notable rapprochement of positions, cf. K. Koch, “Der Bischof als Bindeglied der Katholizität. Die episkopale Dimension der katholischen Ekklesiologie”, in: G. Augustin (ed.), Die Kirche Jesu Christi leben, Freiburg i. Br. 2010, 56–107, especially 80–85. On the theme in general, cf. A. Buckenmaier, Universale Kirche vor Ort. Zum Verhältnis von Universalkirche und Ortskirche, Regensburg 2009.
 Cf. G. Martzelos, “Der theologische Dialog zwischen der Orthodoxen und der Römisch-katholischen Kirche: Chronik – Bewertung – Aussichten”, in: K. Nikolakopoulos (ed.), Benedikt XVI. und die Orthodoxe Kirche. Bestandesaufnahmen, Erwartungen, Perspektiven, St. Ottilien 2008, 289–327.
 Cf. W. Kasper (ed.), Il ministero petrino. Cattolici e ortodossi in dialogo, Roma 2004.
 J. Ratzinger, “Briefwechsel zwischen Metropolit Damaskinos und Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger”, in: id., Weggemeinschaft des Glaubens. Kirche als Communio, Augsburg 2002, 187–209, cit. 205.
 For background reading: A. Elli, Breve storia delle Chiese Cattoliche Orientali, Milano 2010; P. G. Gianazza, Cattolici di rito orientale e Chiesa Latina in Medio Oriente, Bologna 2010; H. Legrand and G. M. Croce, L’Oeuvre d’Orient. Solidarités anciennes et nouveaux défis, Paris 2010; A. O’Mahony and J. Flannery (ed.), The Catholic Church in the Contemporary Middle East, London 2010.
 Orientalium ecclesiarum, 24.
 Ibid, no. 30a.
Cf. W. Kasper, “L’Orthodoxie et l’Église catholique. A 40 ans du Décret sur l’œcuménisme Unitatis redintegratio”, in: La Documentation catholique 86, 2004, 315–323.
 It is surely positive that the trans–community and universal dimensions of the Church have been increasingly rediscovered by theologians of the Protestant tradition, such as Wolfhart Pannenberg and Gunther Wenz, with a clear reference to the eucharistic celebration. Cf. W. Pannenberg, “Kirche als Gemeinschaft der Glaubenden”, in: id., Kirche und Ökumene = Beiträge zur Systematischen Theologie, Göttingen 2000, vol. 3, 11–22; G. Wenz, “Communio Ecclesiarum”, in: F. W. Graf / D. Korsch (ed.), Jenseits der Einheit. Protestantische Ansichten der Ökumene, Hannover 2001, 111–124. However, this vision is not representative of modern Protestant ecclesiology.
 J. Ratzinger, Vorwort zur Neuauflage von Volk und Haus Gottes in Augustins Lehre von der Kirche, St. Ottilien 1992, XIV.
 Cf. K. Koch, “Eucharistie und Kirche in ökumenischer Perspektive”, in: Schweizerische Kirchenzeitung 171, 2003, 619–631 and 640–649. Cf. also K. Lehmann, “Einheit der Kirche und Gemeinschaft im Herrenmahl. Zur neueren ökumenischen Diskussion um Eucharistie- und Kirchengemeinschaft”, in: T. Söding (ed.), Eucharistie. Positionen katholischer Theologie, Regensburg 2002, 141–177.
 J. Ratzinger, “Das geistliche Amt und die Einheit der Kirche”, in: id., Das neue Volk Gottes. Entwürfe zur Ekklesiologie, Düsseldorf 1969, 105–129, cit. 106.
 Martin Luther defended himself against the accusation of abandoning the ancient Church and creating a new Church in his text “Wider Hans Worst”, in which he stressed: “We have remained faithful to the true and ancient Church, we are the true and ancient Church”, forming “one Body and one community with the entire holy Christian Church and communion of saints”. John Calvin expounded a similar argument in the fourth book of his “Institutio”. The Protestant ecumenist W. Pannenberg rightly observed that the Reformers wanted the renewal of the one Church and not new Churches and, therefore, that the emergence of new churches does not represent the success, but rather the lack of success, of the Reformation insofar as the realisation of the Reformation would only be effectively achieved through the ecumenical re–establishment of the unity of the Church. Cf. W. Pannenberg, “Reformation und Einheit der Kirche”, in: id., Kirche und Ökumene = Beiträge zur Systematischen Theologie. Band 3, Göttingen 2000, 173–185. The Protestant theologian G. Wenz makes a similar assessment: “The reformation of the one Church according to the criterion of the rediscovered Gospel of the justification of the sinner and not the institution of separate confessional Churches was the original aim of the Reformation.” Cf. G. Wenz, “Konfessionelle Theologie? Ökumenische Notizen aus protestantischer Perspektive”, in: id, Grundfragen ökumenischer Theologie. Vol 1, Göttingen 1999, 17–34, cit. 19.
 Cf. W. Kasper, “Ökumenisch von Gott sprechen?”, in: I. Dalferth et al. (ed.), Denkwürdiges Geheimnis. Beiträge zur Gotteslehre. Festschrift für Eberhard Jüngel zum 70. Geburtstag, Tübingen 2004, 291–302, cit. 302. Ad hoc English translation provided here.
 W. Kasper, Harvesting the Fruits. Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue, London 2009, 48–158: Chapter Three: The Church.
 H. Meyer, “Stillstand oder Kairos? Zur Zukunft des evangelisch/katholischen Dialogs”, in: id., Versöhnte Verschiedenheit. Aufsätze zur ökumenischen Theologie III, Frankfurt a. M.–Paderborn 2009, 132–144.
 Cf. W. Kasper, “Kircheneinheit und Kirchengemeinschaft in katholischer Sicht. Eine Problemskizze”, in: K. Hillenbrand / H. Niederschlag (ed.), Glaube und Gemeinschaft. Festschrift für Paul-Werner Scheele zum 25jährigen Konsekrationsjubiläum, Würzburg 2000, 100–117.
 Cf. G. Hintzen / W. Thönissen, Kirchengemeinschaft möglich? Einheitsverständnis und Einheitskonzepte in der Diskussion, Paderborn 2001.
 F. W. Graf and D. Korsch, “Jenseits der Einheit: Reichtum der Vielfalt. Der Widerstreit der ökumenischen Bewegungen und die Einheit der Kirche”, in: id. (ed.), Jenseits der Einheit. Protestantische Einsichten der Ökumene, Hannover 2001, 9–33, cit. 25.
 Cf. K. Koch, “Kirchengemeinschaft oder Einheit der Kirche? Zum Ringen um eine angemessene Zielvorstellung der Ökumene”, in: P. Walter et al. (ed.), Kirche in ökumenischer Perspektive. Kardinal Walter Kasper zum 70. Geburtstag, Freiburg i. Br. 2003, 135–162.
 Cf. H. Meyer, “Zur Entstehung und Bedeutung des Konzeptes ‘Kirchengemeinschaft’. Eine historische Skizze aus evangelischer Sicht”, in: J. Schreiner and K. Wittstadt (ed.), Communio Sanctorum. Einheit der Christen – Einheit der Kirche. Festschrift für Paul-Werner Scheele, Würzburg 1988, 204–230.
 W. Lohff, Die Konkordie reformatorischer Kirchen in Europa: Leuenberger Konkordie, Frankfurt a. M. 1985, no. 12.
 W. Hüffmeier, “Kirchliche Einheit als Kirchengemeinschaft – Das Leuenberger Modell” in: F. W. Graf und D. Korsch (ed.), Jenseits der Einheit. Protestantische Einsichten der Ökumene, Hannover 2001, 54.
 J. Ratzinger, “Luther and the Unity of the Churches”, in: id., Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavours in Ecclesiology, San Francisco 2008, p.119. (German original: “Luther und die Einheit der Kirchen“, in: id., Kirche, Ökumene und Politik. Neue Versuche zur Ekklesiologie, Einsiedeln 1987, 97–127, cit. 114).
 P. Neuner, “Das Dekret über die Ökumene Unitatis Redintegratio”, in: F. X. Bischof / S. Leimgruber (ed.), Vierzig Jahre II. Vatikanum. Zur Wirkungsgeschichte der Konzilstexte, Würzburg 2004, 117–140, cit. 139.
 P. Neuner / B. Kleinschwärzer-Meister, “Ein neues Miteinander der christlichen Kirchen. Auf dem Weg zum Ökumenischen Kirchentag in Berlin 2003”, in: Stimmen der Zeit 128, 2003, 363–375, cit. 373.
 Cf. M. Eham, Gemeinschaft im Sakrament? Die Frage nach der Möglichkeit sakramentaler Gemeinschaft zwischen katholischen und nichtkatholischen Christen. Zur ekklesiologischen Dimension der ökumenischen Frage. Zwei Bände, Frankfurt a. M. 1986; G. Hintzen, Zum Thema ‘Eucharistie und Kirchengemeinschaft’, Paderborn 1990.
 P.-W. Scheele, “Eucharistie und Kirche gehören zusammen”, in: Die Tagespost 59, 20 May 2003, 3.
 This ecumenical concept has been argued in an audacious way by E. Jüngel on the basis of trinitarian theology. He understands the unity of the Triune God in an ontological–relational way as a communion of reciprocal alterity and, consequently, in an analogous way he understands the unity of the Church as “Wesengemeinschaft gegenseitigen Andersseins” (“intimate communion of reciprocal alterity”), leading him moreover to see the trinitarian subsistence of the one divine Being in the three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as being the legitimate basis for arguing the subsistence of the one Church of Jesus Christ in the various confessional churches. Cf. E. Jüngel, “Der Glaube an die Einheit der Kirche”, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 31 October 2007. This is an audacious analogy insofar as the multiplicity of the confessional churches is based on divisions attributable to human failing, and certainly divisions cannot be understood to be the reflection of the reconciliation between unity and diversity in the trinitarian communion.
 J. Ratzinger, “Luther and the Unity of the Churches”, in: id., Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavours in Ecclesiology, San Francisco 2008, p.119. (German original: “Luther und die Einheit der Kirchen“, in: id., Kirche, Ökumene und Politik. Neue Versuche zur Ekklesiologie, Einsiedeln 1987, 97–127, cit. 114).
 B. Neumann, “ ‘Nehmt einander an, wie auch Christus uns angenommen hat’ (Röm 15. 7). Bausteine zu einer Spiritualität der Ökumene”, in: Geist und Leben 76, 2003, 182–196, cit. 183.
 Cf. K. Koch, “Bleibende Aufgaben für die Ökumene aus katholischer Sicht”, in: W. Thönissen (ed.), “Unitatis redintegratio”. 40 Jahre Ökumenismusdekret – Erbe und Auftrag, Paderborn – Frankfurt a. M. 2005, 287–315.
 Cf. W. Welsch, Unsere postmoderne Moderne, Weinheim 1987.
 Cf. W. Kasper, “Die Kirche angesichts der Herausforderungen der Postmoderne”, in: id., Theologie und Kirche, Mainz 1999, vol. 2, 249–264, above all 252–255: “Absage an das Einheitspostulat: Der pluralistische Grundzug der Postmoderne”, cit. 253.
 Cf. R. Schwager, Christus allein? Der Streit um die pluralistische Religionstheologie, Freiburg i. Br. 1996.
 K. Koch, “Glaubensüberzeugung und Toleranz. Interreligiöser Dialog in christlicher Sicht”, in Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft 92, 2008, 196–210.
 Cf. M. N. Ebertz, Aufbruch in der Kirche. Anstösse für ein zukunftsfähiges Christentum, Freiburg i. Br. 2003, 17.
 W. Kasper, Sacrament of Unity: The Eucharist and the Church, New York 2004, 142. (German original: Sakrament der Einheit. Eucharistie und Kirche, Freiburg i. Br. 2004).
 W. Kasper, “Neue Evangelisierung als theologische, pastorale und geistliche Herausforderung”, in: id., Das Evangelium Jesu Christi = Gesammelte Schriften, Freiburg i. Br. 2009, vol. 5, 243–317, cit. 269.
 Benedict XVI, Motu proprio “Ubicumque et semper”.
 Cf. K. Koch, “Die Gottesfrage in Gesellschaft und Kirche”, in: G. Augustin / K. Krämer (ed.), Gott denken und bezeugen. Festschrift für Kardinal Walter Kasper zum 75. Geburtstag, Freiburg i. Br. 2008, 481–503.
 Cf. H. Moll, Martyrium und Wahrheit. Zeugen Christi im 20. Jahrhundert, Weilheim-Bierbronnen 2009; P.-W. Scheele, Zum Zeugnis berufen. Theologie des Martyriums, Würzburg 2008.
 Cf. R. Backes, “Sie werden euch hassen”. Christenverfolgung heute, Augsburg 2005; Kirche in Not (ed.), Religionsfreiheit weltweit. Bericht 2008, Königstein 2008.
 M. Klingberg (ed.), Märtyrer 2008. Das Jahrbuch der Christenverfolgung heute, Bonn 2008. Ad hoc English translation provided here.
 John Paul II, Ut unum sint, 1.
 Cf. W. Pannenberg, “Entwicklung und (Zwischen-)Ergebnisse der ökumenischen Bewegung seit ihren Anfängen”, in: H. Fries et al., Das Ringen um die Einheit der Christen. Zum Stand des evangelisch-katholischen Dialogs, Düsseldorf 1983, particularly 17–20.
 W. Pannenberg, “Eine geistliche Erneuerung der Ökumene tut not”, in: K. Froehlich (ed.), Ökumene. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen heute. Festschrift für O. Cullmann, Tübingen 1982, 112–123, cit. 118 and 120.
 Cf. K. Koch, Rediscovering the soul of the whole ecumenical movement (UR 8). Necessity and perspectives of an ecumenical spirituality, in: The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (ed.), Information Service, 115 (2004) 31–39.
 Unitatis redintegratio, 8.
 W. Kasper, A Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism, New York, 2006.
 Benedict XVI, General audience, 20 January 2010.
 Cf. W. Pannenberg, “Die Ökumene als Wirken des Heiligen Geistes”, in: S. Leimgruber (ed.), Gottes Geist bei den Menschen. Grundfragen und spirituelle Anstösse, München 1999, 68–77.