PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN UNITY
2009 and 2010 were particularly eventful and fruitful years for our Pontifical Council. Besides the more well–known events, we have also continued to pursue our commitment to the unity of all the disciples of Christ with less prominent yet complex efforts that have required sensitive and patient dedication. I would like to mention not only developments in the bilateral and multilateral theological dialogues with the various churches and ecclesial communities, but also the many important events that have opened a window onto the rich diversity of ecumenical relations among the Christian churches searching for full communion. The Pauline Year (2008–2009), for example, offered a wonderful opportunity for theological reflection, and also for prayer and shared worship. There was also the centenary of the birth of a true giant in the ecumenical movement, Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, which coincided with the first fifty years of the Catholic commitment to Christian unity.
Conclusion of the Pauline Year
The Holy Father Benedict XVI’s vision of the Pauline Year was marked by a deep reflection on the theological and spiritual legacy of Saint Paul, particularly his immense work of evangelization. Many ecumenical events took place during the year in Rome and in other ‘Pauline sites’ that are linked to him, including liturgies, symposia, pilgrimages, concerts and many other initiatives. Saint Paul reminds us that full communion among Christians traces its true source to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5), and that Christ’s teachings constitute the basis of all theology on unity.
The Holy Father nominated seven Cardinals as special envoys for the closing celebrations of the Pauline Year, held on 28 June 2009 in various sites associated with Saint Paul, namely: Cardinal Walter Kasper in the Holy Land; Cardinal Ennio Antonelli in Malta; Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino in Cyprus; Cardinal Jean–Louis Tauran in Turkey; Cardinal Josef Tomko in Greece; Cardinal Antonio Maria Ruoco Varela in Syria; and Cardinal Andrè Ving–Trois in Lebanon. The special envoys met with the authorities of the various churches and ecclesial communities during their visits, and in particular with the bishops of the Eastern Churches, as many of these countries have a significant Christian presence, both from a numerical and historical point of view, belonging to the Orthodox Churches and the Ancient Oriental Churches. The conclusion of the Pauline Year in Rome was celebrated with solemn vespers presided over by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday 28 June 2009 and attended also by representatives of the non–Catholic communities of the city.
Centenary of the birth of Cardinal Johannes Willebrands (1909–2009)
Cardinal Willebrands played a primary role in promoting the commitment of the Catholic Church in the ecumenical movement, firstly in the Netherlands and later with the Holy See and the Catholic Church throughout the world. He was the first Secretary of the then Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity during the Second Vatican Council, later becoming its second President after Cardinal Augustin Bea. For nearly thirty years, Cardinal Willebrands influenced the Catholic vision, spirit and approach to ecumenism during the post–Conciliar period. He also played a significant role in promoting relations between Catholics and Jews in the spirit of the Council. Cardinal Willebrands believed that ecumenical dialogue was an expression of a profoundly spiritual dimension. His theological expertise, spiritual sensitivity, and human generosity and warmth made him one of the outstanding ‘bridge–builders’ in 20th–century ecumenism.
The centenary of his birth (1909–2009) was commemorated in two important events held in Utrecht (Netherlands) and Rome. An ecumenical conference was held in Utrecht from 2–5 September 2009, jointly organised by the Willebrands Archive in Utrecht and the Centre for Ecumenical Research of the Theology Faculty of the Catholic University of Louvain. The main speaker was Cardinal Walter Kasper, at the time President of our Pontifical Council, who reflected on the spiritual legacy of Cardinal Willebrands and future perspectives on ecumenism. Other distinguished speakers included Professors Anton Houtepen, Günther Gassman and Mauro Velati, as well as Reverend Professor Adelbert Denaux and Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon. The conference ended with an ecumenical celebration in the Cathedral of Utrecht.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) organised an academic symposium in Rome on 18–19 November 2009. The symposium was inaugurated on the afternoon of 18 November at the Centro Pro Unione in Rome. The participants were greeted by Cardinal Walter Kasper, by Baroness Henriette van Lynden–Leijten, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See, and by Bishop Johannes van Burgsteden, the Auxiliary Bishop of Haarlem. Dr Maria ter Steeg commenced the symposium with a presentation on the critical edition of the diary of Cardinal Willebrands. The symposium continued on 19 November in the Aula Magna of the Gregorian Pontifical University, featuring a range of presentations on the contribution of Cardinal Willebrands to the ecumenical movement. Reverend Professor William Henn, OFM, spoke of the commitment of Cardinal Willebrands to promoting relations between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. Father Michel Van Parys, OSB, reflected on relations with the Eastern Churches. Father James Puglisi, SA, discussed relations with the churches and ecclesial communities of the West. Monsignor Pier Francesco Fumagalli spoke about Cardinal Willebrands’ relations with the Jewish community. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, offered an ecumenical witness, while Reverend Professor Jared Wicks, SJ, reflected on Cardinal Willebrands’ inspired contribution to the development of Catholic ecumenical theology. Lastly, Cardinal Kasper spoke of the legacy of Cardinal Willebrands and the future of ecumenism.
The Holy Father nominated two new members to our Pontifical Council in 2009, namely Cardinal Jean–Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux (France), and Bishop Johan Jozef Bonny, Bishop of Antwerp (Belgium). The Holy Father also nominated the following consultors: Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
A number of staff changes took place in the Pontifical Council in 2009. Monsignor Johan J. Bonny, who was responsible for relations with the Oriental Orthodox Churches for eleven years, was nominated as Bishop of Antwerp on 28 October 2008. He was replaced by Reverend Father Gabriel Quicke (Belgium). In order to strengthen the Eastern Section, Reverend Father Andrea Palmieri (Archdiocese of Bari–Bitonto, Italy) was appointed to work with Monsignor Eleuterio F. Fortino (Under–Secretary) in relations with the Orthodox Churches.
On 1 July 2010, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Cardinal Walter Kasper due to age limit. Cardinal Kasper dedicated eleven years of intense commitment to our Pontifical Council, firstly as Secretary and later for nine years as President. The Holy Father has now called Bishop Kurt Koch, formerly Bishop of Basle in Switzerland, to guide our Council. With Cardinal Kasper’s retirement, we have also lost the valuable service of Monsignor Oliver Lahl, who has returned to his Diocese of Stuttgart as a parish priest.
Monsignor Eleuterio Francesco Fortino
L’Osservatore Romano remembered Monsignor Fortino as the “historical memory and soul of the ecumenical movement”. He was the Under–Secretary of our Pontifical Council from 1965, working closely with Cardinals Willebrands, Cassidy and Kasper. Over the years, he took part in a wide range of debates, studies, and important meetings on ecumenical themes, always with a positive approach and a perceptive sense of realism. We recall, for example, his contribution to the preparation of the Ecumenical Directory. He also often shared his expertise with the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. He was a hard–working person who could often be found writing a text or an article, or preparing a catechesis for his arbresh community, or for ecumenism in Italy, or for our Pontifical Council. He was a wise advocate of an authentic Eastern spirituality, learned and experienced in the liturgy.
Father Emmanuel Lanne, OSB
A leading theologian, liturgist and ecumenist, the Benedictine monk Emmanuel Lanne, OSB, went to sleep in the Lord at the age of 87 on 23 June 2010. His funeral took place on Saturday 26 June in the monastery of Chevetogne (Belgium), where on 14 April 1947 he had made his monastic profession. He shared his deep knowledge of the Christian East – its history, theology, liturgy, spirituality and ecclesial ethos – through his academic role, his involvement with the formation of young seminarians and his monastic life. He was engaged in the ecumenical commitment with both the churches of the East and the ecclesial communities of the West. He was a consultor to the PCPCU, and a member from 1979 to 2006 of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
The Pontifical Council continues to publish Service d’Information – Information Service, which has a circulation of 3,000 readers. The current editor is Reverend Father Vladimiro Caroli, OP. There is an ongoing exchange with a range of other theological and ecumenical publications.
In drawing together the reflections of a longstanding project involving some staff members and consultors of the PCPCU, as well as ecumenical partners and other experts in the field, Cardinal Walter Kasper published Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue (Continuum International Publishing Group). The text is an initial attempt to present an overview of the rich harvest of the theological dialogues undertaken with the churches and ecclesial communities of the Reformation tradition. It presents the outcomes of these dialogues in a thematic order and with a critical approach, highlighting both the areas of convergence and the remaining open questions. The text was translated and published in Italian with the title Raccogliere i frutti (Il Regno, n.1066, 1 November 2009, Ed. Dehoniane, Bologna). Other translations have been either published or are about to be published.
Theological dialogue with the Orthodox Church as a Whole
As agreed upon in Ravenna at the 10th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a Whole (8–14 October 2007), the 11th meeting of the Commission discussed the theme of The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the First Millennium. The 11th plenary session was held in Paphos (Cyprus) from 16–23 October 2009, and was generously and warmly hosted by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The work of this plenary focused on a text drafted after Ravenna, following the methodology agreed upon from the beginning of the establishment of the Commission (Patmos–Rhodes 1980). Two joint sub–commissions met during the first part of 2008 with the aim of gathering the relevant historical data for the period under consideration. Subsequently, the Joint Coordinating Committee met (Elounda, Crete, 27 September–4 October 2008) to prepare a summary overview to present to the plenary session in Cyprus. The Commission was thus able to commence discussion on the key question underlying the historical difficulty between East and West.
As agreed upon in Paphos, the 12th plenary session took place from 20–27 September 2010 in Vienna, and was hosted by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, to whom we are most grateful. The plenary session was attended by 23 Catholic participants, with some absences due to health reasons. The Orthodox representation comprised 27 participants from all the Orthodox Churches except the Patriarchate of Bulgaria.
The participants learned the sad news of the death on 23 September of Monsignor Eleuterio Fortino following a long period of illness. Monsignor Fortino had been the Co–Secretary of the Joint International Commission since its inception in 1980. The Catholic and Orthodox participants were all profoundly saddened by his death, and prayed for the repose of his soul. Many of them had known him personally and had the deepest respect for his role in the developments in ecumenical relations between the two churches.
The meeting in Vienna continued its reflections on the Crete text, with detailed attention to the historical data and witnesses. After lengthy discussion, the Catholic delegation agreed to consider the text as a working document that could be useful in the subsequent phases of the dialogue when the theme of primacy will be taken up in a more theological perspective. It was therefore decided to establish a joint sub–commission to commence work on the theological and ecclesiological aspects of primacy in its relation to synodality. Its work will then be submitted to the Joint Coordinating Committee which will meet in 2011.
While it was not possible to agree upon the publication of a joint document, it would be quite wrong to consider that the plenary session was a failure. The decision to pursue the dialogue in a more theological perspective represents an opportunity to reflect with greater depth on the theme of primacy. Furthermore, the great effort that has been undertaken in the joint study and interpretation of the primacy sources of the first millennium regarding the role of the bishop of Rome will undoubtedly be valuable in preparing a theological text on primacy and synodality.
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Feast days in Rome and the Phanar and other encounters
A delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople guided by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France visited Rome from 26–29 June 2009 for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. On the morning of 27 June, the delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate met with Cardinal Walter Kasper at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and were later received by the Holy Father. The delegation took part in the Vespers presided over by the Pope in Saint Paul Outside the Walls on 28 June at the closure of the Pauline Year. On the morning of 29 June, the delegation took part in the Mass in the Vatican Basilica presided over by Pope Benedict XVI in honour of Saints Peter and Paul.
The VIII Symposium on Religion, Science and the Environment took place in the United States from 18–25 October under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has since 1995 concerned itself with the theme of the safeguarding of the natural resource of water. The 2009 Symposium was dedicated to the Mississippi River. The Holy Father nominated Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans as his personal representative, conveying a message through him to His All Holiness Bartholomew I.
A delegation of the Holy See guided by Cardinal Walter Kasper visited Istanbul from 29 November to 1 December for the feast of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Arriving in Istanbul on the afternoon of 29 November, Cardinal Kasper and the other members of the delegation were received in a private audience with Patriarch Bartholomew I. On the following morning, the delegation took part in the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George at the Phanar. At the end of the celebration, the Patriarchate made a speech in which he warmly greeted Cardinal Kasper and the delegation. His Eminence then conveyed the message of the Holy Father to the Ecumenical Patriarch. Conversations between the Holy See and the Synodal Commission for relations with other Christians took place on the morning of 1 December at the patriarchal office.
A delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople visited Rome from 27–30 June 2010 for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate visited the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the morning of 28 June, after which they were received by the Holy Father. In the afternoon, the delegation took part in the Vespers presided over by the Pope in Saint Paul Outside the Walls. The delegation also took part in the Mass held in Saint Peter’s Basilica on the morning of 29 June which was presided over by Pope Benedict XVI in honour of Saints Peter and Paul.
Patriarchate of Jerusalem
During his visit to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI visited Theophilus III, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, on 15 May 2009. The Patriarchate organised an ecumenical encounter with all the Christian communities in the Holy Land. In his speech, the Holy Father highlighted the link between the unity of the Church and her mission, insofar as it the very aspiration to bring Christ to others and to make known his message of reconciliation that we experience the shame of division.
Patriarchate of Moscow
Besides regular contact, three important events have taken place in relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. Firstly, the enthronement of the new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, His Holiness Kyrill, who was elected on 27 January 2009. Cardinal Kasper personally conveyed the message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, as well as the gift of a chalice and paten. The desire to continue the dialogue towards full communion and to cooperate in promoting Christian values in modern society were both reconfirmed in a meeting following the enthronement.
Secondly, the Russian Orthodox church of Saint Catherine in Rome, which is close to the Vatican and is sited in the territory of the Russian Embassy to the Italian State, was solemnly blessed on 24 May 2009, on the feast day of Saints Cyril and Methodius according to the Julian calendar.
Thirdly, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow, visited Rome in September 2009 and May 2010. The Day of Russian Culture in the Vatican was organised for the visit in 2010, concluding with a concert offered to the Holy Father by Patriarch Kyrill and the Russian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Hilarion had conversations with various authorities of the Holy See during both visits.
Relations between Rome and Moscow are improving, particularly after the election of Patriarch Kyrill and also due to the dedicated efforts of the current Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. Relations are also improving at the local level in Russia, with fewer conflicts and accusations of proselytism. Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, the new Catholic Archbishop of Moscow, is also actively committed to fostering relations, as are many other Catholics. However, there is still a long way to go before we can speak of true cooperation and friendship, especially on the part of some Catholic clergy who remain prejudiced towards their Orthodox counterparts and who are diffident in seeking contact with them. The mass media has paid great attention to a possible encounter between the Pope and the Patriarch, and while both have confirmed their willingness in principle, circumstances are not yet favourable.
Exarchate of Belarus of the Patriarchate of Moscow
Cardinal Kasper visited Minsk (Belarus) from 8–10 November 2009 in response to the invitation of Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Exarch of Belarus of the Patriarchate of Moscow, in order to attend the international conference on Christian–Jewish dialogue: Religious values as the basis of mutual respect in civil society during the global economic crisis, which was organised by the Institute for Religious Dialogue and Interconfessional Communications of the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Belarus and the Christian Educational Center of Saints Methodius and Cyril together with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Cardinal Kasper also presided over the eucharistic celebration in the Catholic Cathedral of Minsk. He met with Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk, the Apostolic Nuncio, and other bishops of the Bishops’ Conference in order to discuss the need to foster a positive attitude towards ecumenical dialogue.
Patriarchate of Serbia
Reverend Father Milan Žust, SJ, visited Serbia from 24–30 October 2009 in order to renew direct contact with both the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. He also took part from 18–20 November in the Holy See’s official delegation to the funeral of Patriarch Pavle. The delegation was led by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals. After the funeral, the delegation met with His Eminence Amfilohije, locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, and Mr Vuk Jeremić, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia.
The election of the new Patriarch marks a positive step towards strengthened relations. Prior to his election, the Bishop of Niš had already shown openness to the Catholic Church and had wanted to invite the Pope to the birth place of Emperor Constantine for the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. Since becoming the Patriarch, he has renewed this proposal with the support of a greater number of bishops. However, some bishops are strongly opposed to the idea, particularly in light of the difficult relations in the past with Catholic Croatians. This may hinder an official invitation at present, although the idea is gaining ground.
Archbishop Koch recently led a delegation of the Holy See from 1–4 October 2010 to Pec (Kosovo) in Serbia, the historical see of the Serbian Patriarchate, for the solemn enthronement of the new Patriarch Irinej, who was elected on 22 January. The delegation conveyed the message of the Holy Father and the gift of a chalice.
Orthodox Church of Cyprus
Benedict XVI undertook the first visit of a Pope to a country with an Orthodox majority when he visited Cyprus, meeting with His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, the Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, on 5 June 2010. Cardinal Kasper took part in the official delegation. Benedict XVI joined His Beatitude Chrysostomos and Metropolitan Giorgos of Paphos, together with other representatives of the other churches and ecclesial communities, in the ecumenical prayer service held in the church of Sant Kyriaki Chrysopolytissa in Paphos on 4 June.
Orthodox Church of Greece
Cardinal Kasper visited His Beatitude Ieronymos II, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, in Athens from 21–24 February 2009. This was his first meeting with the new primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece, who had been elected the year before. Cardinal Kasper was received in a private audience with His Beatitude, and later met with some of his main staff in order to discuss cooperation in shared fields of interest, such as pastoral care and the formation of clergy and lay people. As in other years, a number of Greek Orthodox students were granted scholarships through the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration in order to undertake further study in pontifical universities in Rome or in other Catholic faculties of theology in Italy or France. In exchange, the Church of Greece offered a number of scholarships to young Catholic priests or seminarians from different parts of the world in order to undertake a summer course in modern Greek language and Greek Orthodox culture. The programme was organised by Apostoliki Diakonia of the Church of Greece, under the guidance of Bishop Agatanghelos. Now in its sixth year, the programme has involved over 150 participants who have been able to gain deeper insight into the Greek Orthodox world.
Orthodox Church of Albania
His Beatitude Anastas, Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, undertook the first official visit of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania to the Holy Father and the Church of Rome from 4–8 December 2009. In his opening address to the Holy Father, His Beatitude Anastas spoke of the historical significance of this first visit to the Church of Rome.
Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia
After a number of years, direct contact was renewed with the Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. His Beatitude Kryštof, Metropolitan of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, visited Rome from 26–28 February 2009, together with a delegation of 50 faithful in pilgrimage for the 1040th anniversary of the death of Saint Cyril, Apostle of the Slavs. After celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Basilica of Saint Clement, the Metropolitan met with Cardinal Kasper at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and was later received privately by the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches (The Ancient Churches of the East)
The dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches
The Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches (the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apotolic Church [with representatives from the Catholicossates of Etchmiadzin and Antelias], the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church) met in Rome from 26–30 January 2009 under the co–presidency of Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan Bishoy of Damiette, Secretary General of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The Commission focused on analysing and approving the joint document entitled Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church. This document is the outcome of six years of dialogue, and has been submitted to the respect ecclesial authorities for evaluation. It represents a significant development in light of the fact that the separation between the Catholic Church and these Churches dates back to over 1,500 years.
A new phase of dialogue commenced with the last meeting of the Commission held in Antelias from 26 January to 1 February 2010, which focused exclusively on the theme of the reception of the Ecumenical Councils. The members of the Commission will study how each Church received the Ecumenical Councils, the way in which each expressed their communion in the first five centuries, and the role exercised by Rome in the period prior to the separation after the Council of Chalcedon.
The next meeting will take place in Rome from 24–29 January 2011. The members will deepen their understanding of the communion and contact between the Churches until the middle of the fifth century of Christian history, as well as the role of monachism.
The dialogue with the Malankara Churches in India
The Malankara tradition is widespread in Kerala, southern India, and traces its origins to the great missionary expansion attributed to the apostle Saint Thomas and to the Syrian Oriental Church in the first centuries of the Christian era. The Saint Thomas Christians remained a compact community in India until the 17th century. This unity disintegrated with the arrival of the Portuguese, and the Saint Thomas Church is today divided into many different communities. The Malankara Church of India is divided into two: the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, which is in full communion with the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, which aspires to full independence. The two dialogues with these Churches have taken place on a regular basis.
The Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church held its 12th meeting at the Patriarchal Centre in Puthencruz from 14–15 December 2009. The meeting was co–presided by Bishop Brian Farrell and Metropolitan Kuriakose Mar Theophilose. The main discussion point was the sharing of sacraments and worship sites. Consideration was also given to initiatives for shared witness.
The Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church held its 14th meeting at the Sophia Centre in Kottayam from 16–17 December, under the co–presidency of Bishop Farrell and Metropolitan Gabriel Mar Gregorios, President of the Department of Ecumenical Relations of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Discussion focused on five main themes: 1) shared worship sites, particularly churches and cemeteries; 2) the administration of the sacrament of extreme unction in specific circumstances; 3) marriage between Catholics and Orthodox; 4) initiatives for shared witness, such as a conference for religious; cooperation between seminaries; a conference on family issues; 5) the Petrine primacy in the writings of the Fathers of the Church and in ancient liturgical texts.
Relations with the Assyrian Church of the East
There have been many fruitful outcomes of the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. Pope John Paul II and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, the Patriarch Catholicos of the Assyrian Church of the East, signed a joint Christological declaration on 11 November 1994. The declaration overcame a longstanding controversy regarding the Christological implications of the Council of Ephesus, and opened new horizons for both the theological dialogue and pastoral cooperation. Subsequently, the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East planned two further phases of work: the first on sacramental theology, and the second on the constitution of the Church.
The first phase concluded with a wide consensus on sacramental issues, and the final document was presented to the authorities of both Churches for approval. However, difficulties arose in connection with the passage into the Catholic Church of one of the most active Assyrian bishops in the dialogue process. Despite an agreement in principle to re–establish the dialogue, the Secretary of the Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East notified us in October 2010 of the intention to suspend the preparation of the dialogue until the Holy Synod meets and expresses its findings.
Visits and other events
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity received His Holiness Abuna Paulos, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, who had been invited by the Holy Father to make an address as a special guest at the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops held in Rome in October 2009. In his speech on 6 October, His Holiness Abuna Paulos spoke of the situation in the African continent and the challenges facing Africans, reflecting in particular on the theme of the Assembly, The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.
Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration
Now in the 46th year of operation, the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration continues its commitment to fostering relations at various levels with the Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The Holy Father has on many occasions spoken of the service of the Committee as one of the most important aspects of the work of our Pontifical Council. With the support of a network of benefactors, the Committee grants scholarships to Orthodox students who have been presented by their ecclesiastical authorities and who will undertake service in their respective churches after their studies. The Committee also disburses funding for a range of ecumenical initiatives with Orthodox faculties and entities. Many former scholarship holders have become bishops, priests, and academics or have served their churches in a variety of other ways, some of them with important responsibilities, thus contributing greatly to the growing communion among Christians.
The current financial difficulties have led to a slight reduction in the number of annual scholarships, with 47 being granted in 2010–2011, that is, five less than last year.
Besides the scholarship programme, the Committee funds a number of projects in the field of formation, as well as conferences and the publication of translations of Catholic texts, particularly with longstanding partners in Moscow, Kyiv, Minsk, Balamand and Chambésy. These projects play a valuable educational role in Orthodox formation and in exchange with the different Orthodox Churches. The President and Secretary of our Pontifical Council together with the main benefactors gather annually in January at the meeting the Board of Management of the Committee, during which the previous year’s work is discussed and new projects are presented.
Particular mention should be made of some of the special projects. The Committee organised, together with the Pontifical Oriental Institute, a study visit to Rome of some of the academic staff of the Saint Tichon Orthodox University of Moscow from 18–27 February 2009. As well, the Committee organised the visit to Rome of the main staff members of the Saint Clement Centre in Kyiv from 31 October to 7 November 2009.
Dialogue with the Ecclesial Communities of the West
The Old Catholics Bishops’ Conference of the Union of Utrecht
The concluding session of the International Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Union of Utrecht took place in Salzburg (Austria) from 10–13 May 2009, under the co–presidency of Bishop Paul–Werner Scheele, Bishop Emeritus of Würzburg, for the Catholic side, and Bishop Fritz–Réné Müller of Bern for the Old Catholics. The Commission approved the Final Report of its long–term consultations on the existing ecclesial communion between the Catholic Church and the Old Catholic Church. Entitled Church and Ecclesial Communion, the Report marks progress in developing an ecclesiological understanding and a differentiated consensus on doctrine and practice, as well as in identifying the remaining differences.
The Anglican Communion
Ecumenical aspects of the Papal Visit to Great Britain, 16–19 September 2010
The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain was, it is generally agreed, remarkably successful, confounding those who had predicted significant protests or disappointing crowds. One reason for this success was undoubtedly the person of the Holy Father himself, who in his manner and his message was revealed quite unlike the caricature that had been portrayed in much of the hostile media.
A key aspect of the Papal visit was the ecumenical encounters between the Pope and other Christian leaders, most notably the Archbishop of Canterbury and bishops of the Church of England. At Westminster Abbey, the Holy Father took part in Evening Prayer celebrated with the full panoply of Anglican liturgy – a notable example of the Anglican patrimony that forms such a feature of the potential Ordinariate.
In general, Pope Benedict spoke warmly and positively of Anglican/Roman Catholic relations. At Lambeth he stated that it was not his intention to ‘speak of the difficulties that the ecumenical path has encountered and continues to encounter.’ He spoke positively of forty years of ARCIC dialogue, giving thanks for the ‘remarkable progress’ made towards the goal of unity, and noting that ‘what we share, in Christ, is greater than what divides us.’
However, the Pope did several times mention in general terms the problems facing ecumenical relations, and warned that the search for unity requires an obedience to the Lord’s will – ‘an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age.’ This has been seen by some as a reference to the current issues within the Anglican Communion.
As the Holy Father left England, he spoke to the Catholic Bishops of Britain about Anglicanorum Coetibus, calling it a ‘prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics.’ For Pope Benedict, the Apostolic Constitution renews our enthusiasm for the restoration of full ecclesial communion, and encourages an enriching ‘exchange of gifts’ from our respective patrimonies.
The crisis of Anglicanism is one of historic identity versus the cultural fragmentation of the modern world. Historically the strength of Anglicanism was ‘comprehensiveness.’ What bound Anglicanism together was not rigid theology but cultural expression, enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised Version of the Bible and promulgated through colonialism. Until late last century, worldwide Anglicanism was an English Church existing for expatriate Englishmen, or for those who wished to imitate them.
In the post–imperial age, as the ties of cultural dependence slackened, the Anglican Communion put down roots in the local community, ordaining native priests and bishops rather than English missionaries. This has given Anglicanism a new vibrancy and confidence in international affairs. This has enhanced the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, making him the focus not merely of a national, but global, communion.
However, the diversification of Anglican identity has brought profound problems. Without the ‘glue’ of a national culture, and lacking any strong central authority, Anglicanism has become particularly prone to local expressions of theology and ecclesiology. The comprehensive nature of Anglicanism, together with its loose ecclesiological structure, has permitted radically differing interpretations of theology and anthropology, often owning more to local cultural trends than traditional teaching. Certain provinces, notably in North America, have ordained active homosexuals to the episcopate, and have authorised same–sex blessings, to the outrage of more traditional provinces: the Anglican province of Nigeria (the largest) has declared it no longer considers itself in communion with the Episcopal Church of North America.
Worldwide Anglicanism has attempted preserve its communion through a series of ‘instruments of government’ (the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Primates’ Meeting; the Anglican Consultative Council; the Lambeth Conference) – an attempt to exercise some control over theological developments without creating an over–centralised uniformity. It has to be said that these instruments have largely failed. The most notable failure is that of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, who, even as he has assumed a more global role in the communion, has found his authority ignored, or dismissed as irrelevant or even ‘neo–colonialist.’
Along with innovations in moral attitudes, there are other theological issues dividing the communion, notably the ordination of women to the Episcopate in some provinces, and the presiding at the Eucharist of deacons rather than priests.
This has created a complicated situation for ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church, which has to take into account not only new moral and theological issues which render hopes of full and visible union merely abstract, but also the fall–out from these issues. Traditional Anglicans opposed to recent developments have broken with their provinces and set up new entities, whose profession of faith is often closer to the apostolic tradition, and who have in some cases requested to enter into relations with the Catholic Church.
In an attempt to bring some coherence to the worldwide Communion, a committee set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed an ‘Anglican covenant’ be presented to all Anglican provinces, expressing their adherence to procedures proposed by the Instruments of Government. The Archbishop of Canterbury has strongly supported the Covenant. However, after four revisions the obligatory aspect of the Covenant is greatly weakened; some provinces still find it too centralising, and it seems unlikely the Covenant will become a useful tool either for Anglicanism or for its ecumenical partners attempting to identify clear Anglican positions on a range of issues. It is hard to see how the Communion will avoid fragmentation – a prospect admitted by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
The publication in November 2009 of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, was a response to requests from groups of Anglicans and former Anglicans, made over a significant period, for some form of corporate admission to full communion with the Holy See. Within the Anglican Communion the promulgation of the Constitution provoked varied reactions, both positive and critical, with some concern expressed that the Holy See now considered the traditional form of official dialogue to be outmoded. The many formal and informal contacts of the Pontifical Council proved invaluable at this time, in explaining the Constitution and providing an accurate context for its promulgation. At the same time, Cardinal Kasper made it clear that the Apostolic Constitution provides a response to a pastoral need, which according to the decree Unitatis Redintegratio §4 is a separate matter from the work of ecumenical dialogue. The work of the Pontifical Council, and its historic relations with the Anglican Communion, will continue.
The visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was accompanied by Bishop Christopher Hill, gave a talk at the symposium in honour of Cardinal Willebrands from 19–22 November 2009. There were also conversations on the current situation in the ecumenical dialogue and on questions emerging in relation to the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. Dr Williams and Bishop Hill, together with the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and other members of the delegation, were received in audience with the Holy Father.
International Dialogue Commission
A preparatory commission to discuss the third phase of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission met in Rome on November 23, under the co–presidency of Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle for the Catholic side, and Archbishop David Moxon of New Zealand for the Anglicans. This was the third and largest meeting of the preparatory commission, and it began by considering proposals set forth at a previous meeting in 2008. These were considered in detail, and rewritten to form a draft programme for the International Commission, developing the mandate given by the Holy Father and Archbishop Williams in their November 2006 joint statement. The focus of the third phase of ARCIC was suggested to be: The Church as Communion, local and universal and How, in communion the local and universal Church come to discern right ethical teaching. In both these areas, which have a particular bearing on current issues within the Anglican Communion, the Commission would be asked to build upon the already agreed statements of the first two phases of dialogue.
Each year, talks are held in Rome between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and key figures in the Anglican Communion representing Lambeth Palace, the Anglican Communion Office, the Anglican Centre in Rome, and the International Dialogues. This meeting enables a frank and useful exchange of ideas, and an updating on events among the dialogue partners. In 2009, the Talks focused on recent events within the Anglican Communion and their impact upon the dialogue, as well as the effect of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
Lutheran World Federation
The year 2009 marked the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The World Lutheran Federation (LWF) and the Catholic Church organised a commemoration from 30–31 October, with a special event in the town hall with presentations by Lutherans, Methodists and Catholics, as well as an ecumenical celebration in the cathedral attended by many local and international guests. Our Pontifical Council was represented by Cardinal Kasper and Monsignor Türk. Similar celebrations were organised in various countries.
1. The Lutheran–Catholic dialogue
The International Lutheran–Catholic Commission for Unity concluded its fourth phase of dialogue in 2006 with the text The Apostolicity of the Church. Set against a complex and controversial ecclesiological background, the following themes were dealt with in detail: 1) apostolicity as the essential characteristic of the Church, in continuity with its original foundation; 2) the apostolicity of the ordained ministry; 3) the means it has for maintaining faith and teaching in those truths that the apostles communicated once and for all.
The apostolicity of the Church is to be considered within the context of the consensus reached between Catholics and Lutherans on justification by the grace of Christ, and agreement in confessing that it is the Holy Spirit who gathers believers into the Church. Despite remaining differences, Lutherans and Catholics agree at a basic level on what constitutes the apostolicity of the Church and they acknowledge, each with their own individual accents, the true apostolicity in each other’s traditions.
With regard to ordained ministry, the study document outlines the rich biblical witness and identifies the main changes over the centuries in the institutional order and theology of ministerial service. Today Lutherans and Catholics agree on the common priesthood of all believers and on ministry as a service instituted by God for all. However, Lutherans do not agree on the way that the Second Vatican Council understood episcopal ministry as representing the full realisation of ordained ministry. While the Second Vatican Council spoke of the defect in ministries such as the Lutheran, the study document observes that other Conciliar texts, together with the consensus on justification, point to a more positive Catholic recognition of the spiritual efficacy of the Lutheran ministry.
With regard to the means by which the Church preserves the truth of the apostolic Gospel, the dialogue proposes a reconciled diversity between Catholics and Lutherans on the biblical canon and on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. While the Commission does not deny the remaining differences regarding teaching ministries and the magisterium, it does demonstrate that Lutherans and Catholics fundamentally agree on the need for teaching ministries among multiple instances of witness to the apostolic gospel and on its implications for modern Christian faith, worship and life.
In response to the invitation of the local Lutheran church in Nordelbien, the Lutheran–Roman Catholic Commission on Unity met for the first session of its fifth phase of dialogue in Breklum, near Hamburg, in 2009 under the co–presidency of Bishop Müller of Regensburg (Germany) on the Catholic side, and Bishop Houvinen of Helsinki (Finland) for the Lutheran side. Discussion began on the new theme of Baptism and Growth in Communion. Our common baptism is the foundation of communion between Catholics and Lutherans. To date, this aspect has been an assumption rather than a true object of ecumenical dialogue. The Commission will now develop this implicit theology on common baptism, in view of growing ecclesial communion. The theology of common baptism may thus make a contribution to growth in ecclesial communion. The Joint Declaration for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes the basis for this important development. While this text did not explicitly highlight the ecclesial dimension in the consensus on the doctrine of justification, baptism is the Sitz im Leben of justification and has a clear ecclesial significance. The task of the Commission is to expound this aspect. Substantial convergences have emerged not only with regard to the understanding of baptism but also to its practice.
The Commission also aims to prepare a joint document for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 on the modern relevance of the Reformation from an ecumenical point of view.
In view of the anniversary of the Reformation, the Institut für ökumenische Forschung of Strasbourg and the Lutheran World Federation, together with the Johann–Adam–Möhler–Institut für Ökumenik of Paderborn have planned a new international ecumenical project which will undertake for the first time a joint study on Luther’s 95 theses of 1517.
A study group has met since 2008 to continue its reflections at the international level on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The group comprises Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed exegetes who have already reached a wide consensus on the biblical foundations of the doctrine of justification.
2. Regional dialogues
Besides the regional bilateral dialogue commissions – such as in the United States (on the theme Eschatology and Eternal Life), in Finland and Sweden (Justification in the Life of the Church), and since 2009 once again in Germany (God and Human Dignity) – other new forms of exchange have emerged, such as the series of consultations between the Johann–Adam–Möhler–Institut für Ökumenik of Paderborn and the Lutherischen Theologischen Hochschule della Selbstständigen Evangelisch–Lutherischen Kirche (SELK) of Oberursel (Germany). The aim and content of such dialogues is to identify aspects that are shared by the Catholic Church and confessional Lutheranism, within the structure of the International Lutheran Council, to which the Missouri Synod in the United States belongs. Conversations have also taken place since 2008 with Lutheran representatives of the Baltic states regarding a new level of bilateral dialogue. The various regional dialogues are complementary to the dialogue with the Lutheran World Federation and offer it valuable input.
The eleventh General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation was held in Stuttgart in 2010 on the theme Give Us Today Our Daily Bread. The assembly mainly reflected on social justice, peace and the environment. As an outcome of the work of the Lutheran–Mennonite dialogue, a moving celebration of reconciliation with the Mennonites took place during the assembly. It is envisaged that this bilateral dialogue will develop into a trilateral dialogue with Lutherans, Mennonites and Catholics.
3. Future prospects
Lutheranism also faces difficulties in relation to its own communion and ecclesial identity. Lutherans have suffered from internal division. New groups or parts of local churches break away and seek external support, sometimes from ecumenical partners such as the Catholic Church. This has occurred due to recent dissension on ethical and theological–moral questions relating to secularization; sometimes there is also a lack of solid foundations or shared spirituality. This has led to a harsher or more critical approach to ecumenical partners. In such a situation, interest in ecumenism diminishes and maintaining the status quo becomes the sole concern. The aim of full and visible unity is sometimes reduced to the level of mere cooperation when possible without too much difficulty. In order to strengthen the ecumenism of life and spiritual ecumenism in this intermediary situation, there is a need to consolidate and to pursue the bilateral dialogues based on the achievements to date. The spirit of relativism towards faith and Christian doctrine – which is widespread in much of society – certainly does not help. As Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed: “For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasize objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living.” (Benedict XVI, Ecumenical prayer service, 18 April 2008, St Joseph’s Parish, New York).
While many past differences have been overcome, many new problems have arisen which were unknown in the past. Post–modernity has seen the emergence of a growing theological diversity within Lutheranism, which now needs to clarify the binding aspects of its doctrine. The Lutheran World Federation has for some years looked at questions such as the renewal and consolidation of its structure as a communion of churches. Other attempts at establishing a binding doctrinal constitution, such as in 2009 adopting the Confessio Augustana as the confessional text for all members of the Protestant church in Germany, have failed in the face of individual differences.
There is also worry about new dissension in the ethical field. On issues relating to marriage and sexuality, some member churches of the Lutheran World Federation have taken up positions that on the one hand entail a risk of division among the faithful themselves, and on the other may lead to a break in ecclesial communion with more traditional member churches. For example, many do not agree with the decisions made by the Lutheran churches in Sweden and the United States regarding homosexuality and the ordination of homosexuals.
On 27 August 2010, some conservative Lutherans in the United States separated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and formed a new ‘North American Lutheran Church’ in response to the decision of ELCA in 2009 to go ahead with the ordination of active homosexuals. The extent of the impact of this controversy for the Lutheran World Federation remains to be seen.
World Methodist Council
In 2009 and 2010, Catholic–Methodist relations were maintained by means of the International Catholic–Methodist Commission, and through conversations, contacts, and official delegations.
Dialogue with the World Methodist Council has taken place in cycles of five years during which period a joint document is produced, to be presented to the World Methodist Council session which meets every sixth year. 2010 marks the end of the current cycle, and the document Encountering Christ the Saviour: Church and Sacraments will be presented to the WMC meeting in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. This document considers the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry in the light of the Paschal mystery. In addition, the Dialogue team has prepared a ‘synthesis’ document – along the lines of the Harvesting the Fruits – drawing together the major themes of forty years of Methodist–Catholic dialogue. This document will be presented both to the WMC and to the PCPCU for official comment and recognition.
The 2009 meeting of the International Catholic–Methodist Joint Commission took place at Boston College, Massachusetts, from 13–20 November under the co–presidency of Bishop Michael Putney and Reverend Dr Geoffrey Wainwright. This was the fourth meeting in the regular five–year cycle of the Joint Commission. The Commission’s first task was to conclude its discussion of a document synthesising all the Methodist–Catholic dialogues since the official ecumenical contact began, entitled Together to Holiness; 40 years of Methodist–Roman Catholic Dialogue. The second and major area of business for the Joint Commission was to continue its work on the document Encountering Christ the Saviour: Church and Sacraments which focuses on the Paschal Mystery in relation to the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Holy Orders.
From 11–15 January, Monsignor Langham attended a conference at Ushaw College, Durham, entitled Receptive Ecumenism and Ecclesial Learning: Learning to Be Church Together, hosted jointly by the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, and St Cuthbert’s Seminary, Ushaw College.
World Alliance of Reformed Churches
The new World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) formed with the merger of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC). The new WCRC represents approximately 80 million Christians of 227 denominations from 108 countries, including various Reformed, Congregational, Presbyterian and United churches. The new World Communion of Reformed Churches will maintain its offices in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) was created in 1970 by a merger of two bodies, one representing Presbyterian and Reformed churches (formed in 1875), the other Congregational churches. It had 218 member churches in 107 countries around the world, with some 75 million members.
The Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) was originally formed as the Reformed Ecumenical Synod (RES) in 1946. It was a Synod that originally identified itself against the more progressive Calvinist churches of the twentieth century. It was originally opposed to modern ecumenical relations, including the World Council of Churches.
The Uniting General Council (UGC) of the World Communion of Reformed Churches was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the United States from 18–28 June 2010. Grand Rapids was the headquarters of the REC. Revd Gregory Fairbanks of the PCPCU read a greeting from Pope Benedict XVI during the Uniting General Council. During the gathering, the Reverend Dr Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, was elected as the first President of the new WCRC.
In April 2011 we will begin a fourth phase of international Catholic–Reformed theological dialogue. Three previous phases of dialogue with the Reformed (WARC) have been held. The first, 1970–1977, produced a report entitled The Presence of Christ in Church and World; the second, 1984–1990, produced a report called Towards a Common Understanding of the Church; and the third, 1998–2005, produced the report entitled The Church as Community of Common Witness to the Kingdom of God.
In consultation with the WCRC we have chosen for this phase the theme Justification and Sacramentality: The Christian Community as an agent for Justice. This theme grows out of joint discussions studying the first three phases of dialogue, in the hope that the WCRC will be able to affiliate with the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, which was affiliated by the Methodist World Council in 2006. The Catholic team for Phase 4 of Dialogue: Co–Chair: Bishop Kevin Rhoades (Bishop of Fort Wayne–South Bend, IN, USA), Dr Peter Casarella (USA)¸ Fr William Henn, OFM Cap. (Rome, USA), Professor Dr Peter De Mey (Belgium), Revd Jorge Scampini, OP (Argentina), Professor Dr Annemarie Mayer (Germany), Revd Gregory Fairbanks (PCPCU, Co–Secretary)
Disciples of Christ (Christian Church)
Following the meeting of the International Commission for dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ, which met at Klosterneuburg near Vienna, Austria, (22–27 June 2008) and which took up the theme The Priesthood of Christ in Church and Ministry, the decision had been that the next step would be to put together the fruits of dialogue of the overarching theme of the whole fourth phase, which had been, The Presence of Christ in the Church.
From 28 June to 1 July 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA), Revd Dr David Thompson, Emeritus Professor of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (England), representing the Disciples of Christ, and Dr Margaret O’Gara, Professor at the University of St Michael’s College, Toronto (Canada), representing the Catholic side, met with the two Co–secretaries of the International Commission, Revd Dr Robert Welsh for the Disciples and Revd Gosbert Byamungu, of our Pontifical Council, in order to draft the document summarising the outcomes of the fourth phase of dialogue entitled The Presence of Christ in the Church with Special Reference to the Eucharist. In the following months, the drafters took into consideration the observations that had been sent by the members of the International Commission in order to prepare the definitive text that was approved by all members. The document now awaits approval from the respective authorities of the Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ prior to publication.
It was also decided to commence the fifth phase of dialogue in 2011, with a renewed dialogue team appointed for a five–year mandate (2011–2016). After the withdrawal of Revd Dr William Tabbernee, the Disciples of Christ have chosen Dr Newell Williams, President of the Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth (USA), as their new Co–President.
World Baptist Alliance
The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is a fellowship of 216 Baptist conventions and unions comprising a membership of more than 37 million baptized believers and a community of 105 million. Baptists practise adult ‘believers baptism’ like their Anabaptist forbearers, thus the difference in the numbers 37 million and 105 million. Baptist theology is a mixture of Anabaptist and Calvinist roots. Baptists are evangelical in their theological approach, and tend to be with the Catholic Church on most family and moral issues. The Baptist World Alliance began in London, England, in 1905 at the first Baptist World Congress. In 2004 the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest protestant denomination in the USA (16 million baptized members, approximately 50% of USA Baptists) withdrew from the BWA. Southern Baptists reject women’s ordination, are wary of ecumenism, and are more Biblical/traditional on social issues.
The second series of conversations between the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Catholic Church is entering its fifth and final year. The overall theme of this phase, from 2006–2010, is The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia. Bishop Arthur Serratelli (USA) and Revd Dr Paul Fiddes (UK) co–chair these conversations. After the first Phase of Conversations (Summons to Witness to Christ in Today’s World – 1984–1988), the 1990 BWA global assembly rejected the first report. It was 18 years after the first phase concluded before a second phase was initiated.
The fourth session of the second cycle of conversations between the World Baptist Alliance and the Catholic Church took place in Rome from 13–19 December 2009. Discussion focused on the theme of Oversight and Primacy in the Ministry of the Church. The overall theme of this cycle, scheduled to take place from 2006–2010 is The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia. Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson (New Jersey, USA), and Revd Dr Paul Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Oxford (Great Britain), co–presided these conversations.
Mennonite World Conference
The Mennonites derive from the Anabaptist tradition of the Reformation, which took up more radical positions in the 16th century with respect to Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. The MWC represents 1,600,000 believes from 99 Mennonite and Brethren in Christ national churches from 56 countries on six continents; more than 60% are African, Asian, or Latin American.
There has been one phase of Conversations between the MWC and the PCPCU (Called Together To Be Peacemakers), 1998–2003. In 2009 the PCPCU sent an inquiry and request to the MWC for a new round of bilateral conversations on the topic of baptism. Since both the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation have recommended baptism as a topic for conversations with the MWC, it has been decided to have trilateral conversations between the MWC, LWF and the PCPCU. A study of baptism, which is one of the principal historic points of theological division with Anabaptists, offers the opportunity to both look at the theological points of departure as well as address the mutual recognition of each other’s baptism.
From 12–19 July, Revd Fairbanks took part in the Mennonite World Conference at Asuncion, Paraguay, conveying the greetings of the PCPCU to the Assembly and to the new President of the MWC, Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe.
Church Communities International (Bruderhof)
Cardinal Kasper and Revd Fairbanks met on 26 October at the PCPCU with a delegation of the Church Communities International (Bruderhof), an Anabaptist group that is actively involved in promoting human life and family values.
The Salvation Army has its roots in mid–19th century England, as a mission movement serving the poor. The Salvation Army operates in 121 countries. Its claimed membership includes more than 17,000 active and more than 8,700 retired officers, over 1 million soldiers, around 100,000 other employees and more than 4.5 million volunteers. Salvationists can be classified as Evangelical Christians who do not practise any sacraments.
In recent years the Salvation Army has been seeking to identify itself as a ‘church’. The only bilateral conversations to date by the Salvation Army have been with the Methodist World Council and the PCPCU. A series of informal ecumenical conversations between the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church has been taking place for several years. The theological conversations are still at an informational stage. In 2009 the theme of the conversations was how each side viewed Divine Revelation. The 2010 theme was how each side viewed Justification. The planned 2011 theme is Sanctification, and in 2012 Mission. There are no plans as of yet to formalize the talks and publish any results.
Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Charismatics
The preparation of the next phase of the Pentecostal–Catholic international dialogue on the theme Charisms in the Church: their Spiritual Significance, Discernment and Pastoral Implications has been the focus over the last two years in relations between Catholics and Pentecostals. In the meantime, Catholics have taken part in a range of different experiences relating to ecumenical formation. Monsignor Juan Usma, Department Head, has taken part in such initiatives in Oceania (National Conference of Delegates for Ecumenism in Australia; meetings in the Diocese of Queensland; conferences and other events relating to formation in several Dioceses in New Zealand) and in Latin America (meeting of the bishops responsible for ecumenism in the 22 Bishops’ Conferences of the continent). The bishops of the Commission for Evangelization of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences have also expressed interest in organising a meeting to discuss the ‘Pentecostal question’.
It will be important over the next few years to give consideration to the changes that have occurred and continue to occur in the Pentecostal world, exemplified in the importance attributed to the ecumenical aspect during the last Pentecostal World Conference held in Stockholm (Sweden) in November 2010. Dr Robeck, Co–President of the Pentecostal–Catholic dialogue, has affirmed that the emphasis placed on the need for greater unity with the universal Church reflects recent efforts to recover the original Pentecostal vision of Christian unity.
With regard to the Preliminary Conversations with a group of Non–Denominational Charismatic leaders, who belong to the so–called third wave of Pentecostals, the PCPCU has held a second meeting to reflect more deeply on questions relating to their confessional identity and self–understanding. The Non–Denominational Charismatics spoke on the topic Anointing in the Holy Spirit, while the Catholics made a presentation on The Role of Doctrine in the Catholic Church. While our partners in the international Pentecostal–Catholic expressed uneasiness and perplexity in relation to these Conversations, subsequent clarifications were welcome. Nonetheless, it will be a priority to seek ways in which to maintain contacts with these groups without harming the existing dialogue with Classical Pentecostals. The next meeting scheduled for 2012 on the theme of the mission of the Church will seek also to evaluate the discussion to date and to establish the way forward in the future.
With regard to the Evangelicals, the third series of the Consultation between the Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance has commenced (with the second series concluding in 2003). Four other encounters in the current series are envisaged. The first meeting sought to establish the common basis for Catholics and Evangelicals in relation to dogmatic and ethical questions. While in general terms Catholics and Evangelicals share a common agenda and approach to ethical questions, clearly there is significant divergence at the ecclesiological level.
One of the most significant developments during this time has undoubtedly been the participation of an official Catholic delegation of observers to Lausanne III, held in Cape Town, South Africa. This represents a total innovation, as previous congresses had not even contemplated the participation of Catholics. The Lausanne Movement has played an important role in defining the identity of Evangelicals. While Lausanne I focused on the definition of Covenant, and Lausanne II reflected on mission strategy, Lausanne III reaffirmed its earlier priorities aimed while seeking also to define the future path of mission in the modern world. The congress also reflected on the centenary of the World Mission Conference in Edinburgh (although in a much less emphatic way that would have been expected). Cape Town 2010 was dedicated to evangelization, and gathered together a range of Christians from many different traditions with a shared priority and approach to mission. Stereotypes of the Catholic Church and Catholics occasionally surfaced during the plenary sessions; however, on each occasion other participants expressed their distance from such views.
Despite the fact that the Catholic observers (Bishop Stephen Brislin, Bishop Graham Rose, Bishop Daniel, Bishop Oscar Cantu, Monsignor Juan Usma of the PCPCU) took part in all the events during the week, and that their presence was greatly appreciated in the working groups, it should be mentioned that their participation was never brought up during the plenary sessions and that the greetings to the various delegations were only conveyed during the meetings with the observers themselves.
World Council of Churches
While the WCC sees itself as a “privileged instrument of the ecumenical movement,” the Catholic Church pursues its own ecumenical vision and plays a complementary role in the one, ecumenical movement. Conscious of the divergent ecclesiological structures between the two institutions, it is crucial that the partnership exercised is perceived as complementary rather than competitive. In this way, the Catholic Church continues to participate in the activities of the WCC as a way of expressing the partial koinonia which already exists between the two institutions.
The WCC’s Central Committee Meeting in Geneva (26 August–2 September 2009) elected the new General Secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, and it is significant to note that after taking office in January 2010, one of the first tasks of the new General Secretary was to visit the PCPCU in May 2010, showing his intention to continue to walk the ecumenical path with the Catholic Church.
The theological search for unity between the two bodies is carried out through the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC, in which the Catholic Church is a full member, and through the Joint Working Group (JWG) which seeks to discern and propose possible areas of cooperation for the sake of visible joint witness to the Gospel. Thus from 20–23 May 2009 the JWG Executive met in Dublin at the invitation of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Catholic Co–moderator of the JWG, to discuss progress of the Ninth Report on two themes and two issues which the current JWG is exploring, namely, Ecumenical Reception, the Spiritual Roots of Ecumenism, Migration and Youth. From 12–19 October 2009 the 36 JWG Plenary members met in Córdoba, Spain, where they worked hard to develop these themes.
From 24–27 May 2010, the JWG Executive met again in Targoviste, Romania, this time at the invitation of the WCC Co–Moderator of the JWG, His Eminence Metropolitan and Archbishop Nifon of Targoviste. Recently from 26September–3 October 2010, the JWG Plenary met at the Greek Orthodox monastery of St Christophoros at Saidnaya, Syria, making the last amendments to the texts for the Ninth Report on the above–mentioned themes and issues.
In addition, the WCC and the Catholic Church have sought consistently to cooperate in the work of formation of future ecumenists. A Catholic Professor continues to offer courses at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, and every year these students and the WCC Youth Interns visit the Holy See for a week, aiming to experience in person the way the Catholic Church is organized and to learn of its contributions to the one ecumenical movement.
This spirit also characterises the relations between the WCC and the Christian World Communions (CWCs), expressed through the Joint Consultative Council (JCC), where Secretaries of the CWCs exchange ideas with the WCC staff on how the one ecumenical movement is moving forward. During the last JCC meeting (19–20 May 2010), the WCC General Secretary, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, intimated that he saw the General Secretaries of the CWCs to be important contributors to the work of the WCC, and insisted that the CWCs and the WCC ought to shape a common vision and share resources to advance the goal of visible unity.
The potential to deepen relations in the one ecumenical movement is the same idea behind the formation and activities of the Global Christian Forum (GCF). The PCPCU continues to support the work of the GCF committee, because of its teleological vision of working to bring on board the ecumenical movement, Pentecostal and Evangelical Christians who otherwise avoid the idea of joining the traditional expressions of ecumenical dialogue. Following the great success of the GCF Global Event at Nakuru, near Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007, the GCF Committee has met in Helsinki, Finland (23–25 February 2009), in Sunbury–on–Thames, Great Britain (9–10 November 2009) and Chicago, USA (16–17 June 2010). Several regional meetings have taken place in the Middle East, covering Egypt, Lebanon and Syria (20–30 June 2009); In Africa (Peduase near Accra, Ghana, [16–20 November 2009]); in the Nordic–Baltic countries (Lathi, Finland, 28–30 September 2010); in Asia (Seoul, Korea, 12–16 November 2010) and in Latin America (San José, Costa Rica 23–25 November 2010). In all these meetings, a strong Catholic participation has been invited and has attended with increasing interest. A second GCF Global event is scheduled to take place near Jakarta, Indonesia from 4–7 October 2011.
In light of the centennial celebrations of the first World Mission Conference held in 1910 at Edinburgh, Scotland, generally acknowledged to mark the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement, it is crucial to mention Catholic participation as a sign of the ecumenical engagement of the Catholic Church over the decades. While Catholics were not represented at the 1910 conference, the centennial celebrations in Edinburgh saw the involvement of a large official Catholic delegation led by Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and an even more extensive Catholic participation from the local Church and from Catholics from around the world. Catholic participants gave presentations in plenary, presided over small discussion groups, and contributed in many different ways to the successful outcome of the event. This shift reveals the extent of the change that has occurred after fifty years of Catholic engagement in the ecumenical movement. This Catholic commitment to the unity of all Christ’s disciples, certainly has led to renewed reflection on the impact of ecumenism on Christian mission and what this means for the future of global Christianity, of relations among the different Christian traditions, and of the compelling force of shared Christian witness in the world. For this reason, the PCPCU continues to support a Catholic Consultant who works within the premises of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. From 8–12 June 2009 a WCC official delegation of the Commission of World Mission and Evangelism, together with three Catholic Commissioners of the team was hosted by the PCPCU. Among others, they visited the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Faculty of Missiology of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. The renewed commitment to exploring new ways of doing mission together, were one of the highlights of this visit. The PCPCU was invited to pay a return visit to the WCC, which has yet to be organised.
Study visit to Rome of students from Bossey
The students from the Bossey Ecumenical Institute make an annual trip to Rome to visit the PCPCU, taking part in the general audience and visiting a range of dicasteries. They also visit the International Union of Superior Generals; the Centro Pro Unione; the Waldensian Faculty of Theology; the Pontifical Universities; the Community of Sant’Egidio; the Focolare Movement; the papal Basilicas; and the catacombs of Priscilla, attending mass on the last day at the Trasfigurazione parish church.
In response to a request of the WCC, our Pontifical Council also welcomes a group of young people taking part in the ecumenical formation programme organised by the WCC. These youth interns follow a similar programme to the students from Bossey.
Collaboration with Faith and Order
Faith and Order (F&O) had its first meeting in Lausanne in 1927. The Catholic Church has been a member of the F&O Commission since 1968, having 12 of the 120 commission member seats (10% of the Commission). There are three Catholic Commissioners on the thirty–member F&O Standing Commission, again 10%. The WCC states that Faith and Order is “Christianity’s most representative theological forum”. Catholic Standing Commission (SC) members are Fr Frans Bouwen, Dr Myriam Wijlens and Fr William Henn. Other Catholic members: Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Dr Barbara Hallensleben, Prof. Dr Piotr Jaskola Roman, Prof. Dr Wolfgang Thönissen, Revd Prof. Angelo Maffeis, Revd Prof. Jorge Scampini, Sr Ha Fong Maria Ko, Sr Dr Lorelei F. Fuchs, Dom Michel Van Parys, OSB.
The Faith and Order Plenary was held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, Chania, Crete, Greece in October 2009. There are currently three main study projects for Faith and Order:
- Ecclesiology: The study document The Nature and Mission of the Church (Faith and Order Paper no. 198, 2005). More than 80 responses have been received from churches and institutions after the document NMC was sent out. In the June 2010 Armenia Standing Commission meeting, a restructuring and shortening of the text was decided. Parallel to this, work will be undertaken on another text, less theoretical, and more easily speaking to the level of the ordinary faithful.
- Sources of authority: By looking at how churches use sources of authority, the commission tried to take a new approach to the old debate around ‘Scripture versus Tradition’, moving it from a theoretical discussion towards a sharing of experiences. After a first consultation in September 2008 and the work done in Crete in 2010, this working group hopes to finish the first part of its work, concerning the early witnesses in the churches (‘Fathers’ of the Church, teachers), specially as interpreters of the scriptures, in the near future.
- Moral Discernment in the Churches: through the examination of case studies – on controversial issues like proselytism, homosexuality and embryonic stem–cell research – the commission critically looked at how churches arrive at their positions on moral issues. The goal was to begin the process of developing an ecumenically recognized set of steps for the churches’ moral discernment. This study project has raised very high expectations in the WCC and in ecumenical circles.
Another Study Project: Baptism
A study document entitled One Baptism elaborated by a previous Standing Commission is finally ready for publication. Unexpectedly it met with strong opposition, coming mainly from the Orthodox, at the Standing Commission (SC) meeting in Cairo (June 2008). However, the WCC Central Committee and many churches kept insisting on the importance of that text and on its publication. The June 2010 SC meeting succeeded in finalising the text after some minor changes, having emphasized that it is a study text and not a convergence document
We cannot conclude this section without mentioning that each year the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches continue to prepare together the booklets for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The texts for 2012 were prepared by a committee representing the Polish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the World Council of Churches. This committee had provided a theme for the week, with readings and commentaries for each of the eight days, prayers and a liturgical service, and notes on the ecumenical situation in Poland.
Christian World Communions
Bishop Brian Farrell and Revd Gosbert Byamungu took part in the plenary of the Secretary Generals of the Christian World Communions, which took place in Canterbury (Great Britain) from 11–15 November 2009. The plenary offered the opportunity to make contact with the Secretary Generals (or their representatives) from nearly all the churches and ecclesial communities involved in the ecumenical movement.
The 2010 plenary was held in Geneva from 2–5 November. The meeting focused on gathering information on ecumenical relations throughout the world. The Secretary of our Pontifical Council was elected as the moderator for the next two years.