Vatican urges new ecumenical effort

 — Dec. 3, 19853 déc. 1985

The Vatican’s chief ecumenical officer called Monday for a new effort to draw Roman Catholicism and the World Council of Churches into a closer relationship, challenging a widening perception that the church’s commitment to cooperative Christian efforts is flagging.

Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, the Dutch-born president of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Christian Unity, contended at a news conference that Catholic collaboration with other Christian denominations, fueled by reforms enacted at the Second Vatican Council two decades ago, remains a central church policy.

He rejected suggestions that the delicate ecumenical alliances have been erected “only in words, not in deeds. That is simply not true.”

Cardinal Willebrands, 76, also said it would be premature to consider asking Jews to forgive Christians for centuries of religious persecution. A group of Italians recently petitioned the synod to issue such a statement.

“We deplore any form of anti-Semitism wherever, whenever and by whomever it is expressed,” the cardinal said. But he added, “We still need much more confidence between the two communities (Roman Catholic and Jewish) before a statement like that could be taken seriously” and not be seen as an empty gesture.

Willebrands is one of three co-presidents of the synod of bishops called to assess the impact of Vatican II on the life of the 800-million-member church.

Among its other actions, that landmark ecumenical council of 1962-65 resolved to work for a rapprochement with Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox Christians, who before Vatican II were often characterized by Rome as “heretics” but were then upgraded in church parlance to “separated brethren.”

Cardinal Willebrands asserted that delegates to the current synod are “very much concerned” with continuing ecumenical ties with the rest of Christendom, although he acknowledged it would be premature for the Catholic Church to petition for membership in the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, which includes on its rolls most of the historic mainline denominations.

Ten representatives of other churches are at the synod as nonvoting “observers.”

During the seven-year pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican’s ecumenical initiatives appear to have been set aside, in part because of the Pope’s concern with restoring internal discipline and fostering broader uniformity of Catholic belief and practice.

But Cardinal Willebrands noted that it would have been “unthinkable” as recently as 30 years ago for leaders of non-Catholic church bodies to meet with the pontiff.

He said such get-acquainted sessions, now common, have had a profound influence on millions of Christians around the world.

“We have made it abundantly clear that we are going together to future church unity,” he said.

Responding to a question about an imminent reorganization of the Vatican Curia that might change his Christian unity office from a secretariat to a congregation, the prelate said he is hopeful his bureau can maintain its “autonomy and freedom of actions,” an apparent reference to rumors that the ecumenical efforts may fall under the conservative eye of Catholicism’s powerful theological watchdog, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

Posted: Dec. 3, 1985 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: bishops, Catholic, Christian unity, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, ecumenism, Vatican
Transmis : 3 déc. 1985 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : bishops, Catholic, Christian unity, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, ecumenism, Vatican

  Previous post: Ancien article : ‘Unprecedented’ Letter From Pope Hails Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue
  Newer post: Article récent : Pope’s aim: unity not a superchurch