De Margerie Series on Christian Unity and Reconciliation

 — Jan. 21, 201321 janv. 2013

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and St. Thomas More College are pleased to inaugurate a new series of lectures and workshops that will bring to Saskatoon distinguished ecumenists from around the world. Our hope is that this will be an annual event, sometimes in conjunction with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The series is named in honour of Fr. Bernard de Margerie. Those who know him, know that his greatest complement is to remind you to “stay humble.” His own humility is one of the many virtues he has brought to ecumenical ministry for over fifty years. Bernard is best known for his work in founding the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in 1984, and serving as its first director for the next decade, but his ecumenical interest was sparked long before by Pope John XXIII who opened the Catholic Church to the ecumenical movement. Bernard’s vision for the ecumenical movement has always placed prayer at the centre. Spiritual ecumenism, which is fostered in prayer together and for each other, promotes humility about the distinctive aspects of our own faith and life. Through the early years of Catholic ecumenism, in the euphoria of new relationships between our churches, Bernard patiently and prayerfully built firm relationships that have seen us through the so-called “ecumenical winter.”

Bernard has been inspired by certain French ecumenists, and I suspect that he perhaps unconsciously modelled his ministry after theirs. Fr. Paul Couturier ministered to Russian exiles in France during the 1920s and 30s, and there began to popularize the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The distinctive approach that Couturier brought was that we should pray, not for the conversion of the other, but for the will of Christ “that all may be one.” Together with other French ecumenists, Couturier founded the Groupe des Dombes, an informal dialogue between Catholic and Reformed clergy and theologians. The Groupe has been a catalyst in France for ecumenism, but the most significant idea that Fr. Bernard has adopted from them is that Christian unity will require the “conversion of the churches.” This is not a return to Rome, or some other form of submission, this is a true conversion in the heart and soul of our churches towards Christ.

Fr. Bernard has taught us at least three things about ecumenism: that the heart of the ecumenical movement is prayer; that the ecumenical movement is an ecclesial movement, a movement of the churches not just of individuals; and that Christ is the focus of the ecumenical movement. Each of these ideas, drawn from Vatican II, has given direction and significance to Bernard’s ministry among us.

In Saskatoon, we enjoy the numerous fruits of the ecumenical movement. Not only in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but throughout the year, we share together in prayer for one another and for our common mission. We gather to study and discuss our faith and the divisions between us, and we seek to express in our lives together the hope for visible unity for which Christ prayed. We should be immensely proud of Fr. Bernard de Margerie whose ministry has exemplified the spirit of Christ and taught us to pray “that all may be one.”

Stay humble, Bernard. Stay humble!

A number of news stories have been posted about this series:

Posted: Jan. 21, 2013 • Permanent link:
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