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 — September 9, 20009 septembre 2000
 

WARC general secretary responds to Dominus Iesus

Geneva, September 9 2000

Rev. Dr Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, has written to Cardinal Edward Cassidy, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to express “disappointment and dismay” following the publication this week of Dominus Iesus, a declaration by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The declaration, Nyomi says in his letter to Cassidy, is “made without ecumenical sensitivity” and “seems to go against the spirit of Vatican II… and the progress made in relationships and dialogues since then”.

The declaration, on the “unicity and salvific universality” of Jesus Christ and the church, is concerned to combat “relativistic” and “pluralistic” views that treat Christianity as just one way of salvation among many, but makes statements about other Christian churches and other religious faiths that have provoked widespread criticism.

“We in the World Alliance of Reformed Churches have attached much importance to the dialogue we have engaged in for a long time now,” Nyomi says. “In many nations a number of our constituent members have made major strides in relationship, often relating as ‘sister churches’ in common witness and diakonal work vis-à-vis challenges in their communities.”

The decree on ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio) approved by the second Vatican council in 1964 committed the Roman Catholic Church to whole-hearted participation in the ecumenical movement and was widely seen as the beginning a new phase in ecumenism.

By contrast, slighting remarks on other Christian communities in this week’s declaration, coupled with an earlier note from the Congregation on the use of the term “sister churches”, are identified by Nyomi as “part of a sustained effort by Catholic conservatives” to deny the growing relationship and respect between the Roman Catholic and Reformed and other churches.

By seeming “to contradict commitment to ecumenical cooperation within the Christian family or even to take us back to a pre-Vatican II spirit”, such statements raise questions, Nyomi writes, concerning “how we can continue in dialogue with integrity – trusting and respecting one another”.

we will be putting on the table for discussion the questions we have regarding how the Roman Catholic Church views the Reformed family, and its implications for our continued dialogue
Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi

Dialogue to go ahead, but with questions

Ironically, the declaration was issued a week before the Alliance was scheduled to begin a further session of international bilateral dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.

WARC considered calling off this session pending clarification on whether the Roman Catholic Church still takes seriously the “special affinity and close relationship” (Decree on Ecumenism, par.19) binding it to Protestant churches.

The Alliance has decided to go ahead with the session “because of the commitment of the Reformed family to ecumenical cooperation and a healthy cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church”, but Nyomi serves notice that “we will be putting on the table for discussion the questions we have regarding how the Roman Catholic Church views the Reformed family, and its implications for our continued dialogue”.

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches, acting on behalf of its now 215 member churches, began international bilateral dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church in 1970. A report of the first phase of dialogue, The Presence of Christ in Church and World, was published in 1977. The second phase (1984 to 1990) resulted in the report, Towards a Common Understanding of the Church.

A third phase of dialogue began in 1998 and has as its theme the church as a community of common witness to the kingdom of God.

The third session in this latest phase will take place in Castelgandolfo, Italy, from September 13 to 19, 2000.

Dr Nyomi’s letter

The full text of the letter follows.

September 8 2000

His Excellency, Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, President
Pontificium Consilium Ad Christianorum Unitatem Fovendam
(Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity)
The Vatican

Dear Cardinal Cassidy,

We have learned with a sense of dismay of the declaration (Dominus Iesus, August 6, 2000) made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith this week, and would like to register this with you in the strongest terms possible.

This declaration seems to go against the spirit of Vatican II, as we understand it, and the progress made in relationships and dialogues since then. Vatican II, in our understanding, opened up many possibilities of relationship which had been closed before. On the other hand, we see Dominus Iesus as part of a sustained effort by Catholic conservatives to deny the growing relationship and respect between and among the different ecclesial communities. While we respect many elements of the declaration, we are most concerned about the statement on when a church is a proper church and when it is not. This concern relates also to the letter from your colleague Cardinal Ratzinger on the use of the term “sister churches”. The question of who constitutes a sister church was dealt with in a Note of the same Congregation of June 30 2000.

We in the World Alliance of Reformed Churches have attached much importance to the dialogue we have engaged in for a long time now. In many nations a number of our constituent members have made major strides in relationship, often relating as “sister churches” in common witness and diakonal work vis-à-vis challenges in their communities.

We respect the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is free to instruct its faithful in language and terms consistent with its understanding of the faith. However, when statements in that declaration seem to contradict commitment to ecumenical cooperation within the Christian family, or even to take us back to a pre-Vatican II spirit, we are concerned. Among other things, it raises questions concerning how we can continue in dialogue with integrity – trusting and respecting one another.

As a matter of fact, next week is another session of our dialogue. One option was to call off this session until we are sure of where we stand in our relationship. Because of the commitment of the Reformed family to ecumenical cooperation and a healthy cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church, we will go ahead with the dialogue. In addition to the theme for the session, we will be putting on the table for discussion the questions we have regarding how the Roman Catholic Church views the Reformed family, and its implications for our continued dialogue.

We are thankful that, through the Pontifical Council on Promoting Christian Unity, we have worked with the Roman Catholic Church in a way that serves the entire church of Jesus Christ of which we are both parts. This has called for ecumenical sensitivity at many fronts. We have on occasion raised concerns with you (our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers) when events are not planned with the ecumenical sensitivity needed. Now in the same spirit we are raising concerns when a declaration such as this is made without ecumenical sensitivity.

As in the spirit and letter of Vatican II, we await your clarification on whether or not we are still to believe that the Roman Catholic Church takes seriously the “special affinity and close relationship” (Decree on Ecumenism, 19) binding the Roman Catholic Church to Protestant churches.

We deem it important to express our dismay and disappointment to you in this manner, with the hope that speaking the truth in love this way will strengthen our relationship. In spite of our dismay, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches remains committed to dialogue with you.

Sincerely yours,

Setri Nyomi, general secretary

Posted: September 9, 2000 • Permanent link: ecu.net/?p=2248
Categories: CommuniquéIn this article: Dominus Iesus, World Communion of Reformed Churches
Transmis : 9 septembre 2000 • Lien permanente : ecu.net/?p=2248
Catégorie : CommuniquéDans cet article : Dominus Iesus, World Communion of Reformed Churches


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