Ecumenism 101: Learning about Christian Unity and Living It
This website is dedicated
to Bishop Felipe Estevez of the Diocese of Saint Augustine.
Statements about the need to work for Christian Unity by recent Popes
Pope John Paul II: Ut Unum Sint, 20: “It is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian unity, is not just some sort of “appendix” which is added to the Church’s traditional activity. Rather ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work, and consequently must pervade all that she is and does.”
Pope Benedict XVI: Homily At Conclusion of [the 2013] Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 28, 2013.) “While we are on the path towards full unity, it is necessary to pursue concrete cooperation among the disciples of Christ for the sake of passing on the faith to the contemporary world. Today there is a great need for reconciliation, dialogue and mutual understanding, not in a moralistic perspective, but in the name of Christian authenticity for a more incisive presence in the reality of our time.”
Pope Francis: Discourse to representatives of the Churches, Ecclesial Communities and other religions, March 20, 2013.“For my part, I wish to assure, in the wake of my predecessors, the firm wish to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue.”
Pope Francis to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, June 14, 2013. “Today’s meeting is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the search for unity among Christians is prompted not by practical considerations, but by the will of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who made us his brothers and sisters, children of the One Father. Hence the prayer that we make today is of fundamental importance. This prayer gives a fresh impulse to our daily efforts to grow towards unity, which are concretely expressed in our cooperation in various areas of daily life …
The unity we so earnestly long for is a gift that comes from above and it is rooted in our communion of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Christ himself promised, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Let us travel the path towards unity, fraternally united in charity and with Jesus Christ as our constant point of reference. In our worship of Jesus Christ we will find the foundation and raison d’être of our journey. May the merciful Father hear and grant the prayers that we make to him together. Let us place all our hope in him who “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).
What is the purpose of this website?
This website is intended to be a source of reference, information and personal formation not only for Catholics, but for all followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who yearn for the unity He prayed for on the eve of His death that His followers be one, like He and the Father are one (John 17:21). This site will grow over time. For now, it is limited to ecumenical relations, that is relations between Catholics and other Christian churches. The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, 102 states: “Christians may be encouraged to share in spiritual activities and resources, i.e., to share that spiritual heritage they have in common in a manner and to a degree appropriate to their present divided state.”
As a Catholic committed to greater understanding of, and cooperation with other Christian communities, I operate in the mindset of receptive ecumenism, dealing with all in the spirit exhorted by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:2-6, NIV)
Everything that you need to know for ecumenical ministry is found in the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (DAPNE, 1993). This lengthy document is broken down for you by chapter with links to text for each of 5 chapters of DAPNE.
To have an overview of the state of worldwide ecumenism, read Cardinal Kasper’s speech in November 2007. It is brought up to date with a January 2013 interview with Cardinal Koch, the current head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. Then read what an authoritative non-Catholic, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Rev. Dr. Olav Tveit has to say on “The Unity We Seek”.
Then read a piece by a leading ecumenist Fr. Thomas Ryan “What Does It Mean To Be Ecumenical?” written in 1994, and try to update it as you look at the contents of ecumenism101.info.
Working for Christian Unity means faith in Jesus, the Lord of Unity; hope in the healing of the fragmented Body of Christ, stitch by stitch; and love for separated Christian sisters and brothers, being convinced that what we share in common is much more substantial than what divides us from one another.
Using this website, anyone can sign up for an individually tailored tutorial, but priority is given to those who plan to be Parish Ecumenical Representatives (PERs) living within the boundaries of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine which comprises the 17 counties of northeast Florida. To sign up for a tutorial, please click here.
All questions of inquiry concerning ecumenism, after you have read a document, will be answered within a reasonable period of time. We may do some research together, and if needed, I will go to the experts.
Please send your comments and suggestions by email.
In service to the Lord of Unity.
Started on Corpus Christi [Body of Christ] Sunday, June 2, 2013. Update started November 16, 2016.
Chau T. Phan, Associate Diocesan Ecumenical Officer, Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida