DAPNE 0. Preface & Outline


Note: This document, abbreviated as DAPNE, is the reference manual for all Catholics engaged in ecumenical ministry.

This article explains DAPNE in the context of church law. Ecumenism and Canon Law: A Canon Lawyer’s Perspective, by Pete Vere, JCL


Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity


Vatican City, March 25th, 1993


1. The search for Christian Unity was one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. The Ecumenical Directory, called for during the Council and published in two parts, one in 1967 and the other in 1970,1 “has given a most valuable service in directing, coordinating and developing the ecumenical effort”.2

Reasons for this Revision

2. Besides the publication of the Directory, numerous other documents that have a bearing on ecumenism have been published by competent authorities.3

The promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church (1983) and of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (1990) has created in ecumenical matters a disciplinary situation for the faithful of the Catholic Church which is partly new.

In the same way, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” recently published (1992), includes the ecumenical dimension as part of the basic teaching for all the faithful of the Church.

3. Furthermore, from the time of the Council onwards fraternal relations with Churches and ecclesial Communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church have intensified; theological dialogues have been set up and have increased in number. In his discourse to the plenary session of the Secretariat (1988), which was dedicated to the revision of the Directory, the Holy Father noted that “the breadth of the ecumenical movement, the multiplication of dialogue statements, the urgent need that is felt for a greater participation by the whole People of God in this movement, and the consequent necessity of accurate doctrinal information, in view of a proper commitment, all of this requires that up-to-date directives be given without delay”.4 It is in this spirit and in the light of these developments that the revision of this Directory has been made.

To Whom is the Directory Addressed

4. The Directory is addressed to the Pastors of the Catholic Church, but it also concerns all the faithful, who are called to pray and work for the unity of Christians, under the direction of their Bishops. The Bishops, individually for their own dioceses, and collegially for the whole Church, are, under the authority of the Holy See, responsible for ecumenical policy and practice.5

5. At the same time it is hoped that the Directory will also be useful to members of Churches and ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. They share with Catholics a concern for the quality of ecumenical activity. It will be an advantage for them to know the direction those guiding the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church wish to give to ecumenical action, and the criteria that are officially approved in the Church. It will help them to evaluate the initiatives that come from Catholics, so as to respond to them adequately, and will also help them better to understand the Catholic responses to their initiatives. It should be kept in mind that the Directory does not intend to deal with the relations of the Catholic Church with sects or with new religious movements.6

Aim of the Directory

6. The new edition of the Directory is meant to be an instrument at the service of the whole Church and especially of those who are directly engaged in ecumenical activity in the Catholic Church. The Directory intends to motivate, enlighten and guide this activity, and in some particular cases also to give binding directives in accordance with the proper competence of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.7 In the light of the experience of the Church in the years since the Council and taking account of the present ecumenical situation, the Directory brings together all the norms already established for implementing and developing the decisions of the Council given up to the present and brings them up to date when necessary. It strengthens the structures that have been developed for the support and guidance of ecumenical activity at every level of the Church. While fully respecting the competence of authorities at different levels, the Directory gives orientations and norms of universal application to guide Catholic participation in ecumenical activity. Their application will provide consistency and coordination to the various practices of ecumenism by which particular Churches 8 and groups of particular Churches respond to their different local situations. It will guarantee that ecumenical activity throughout the Catholic Church is in accordance with the unity of faith and with the discipline that binds Catholics together.

In our day there exists here and there a certain tendency to doctrinal confusion. Also it is very important in the ecumenical sphere, as in other spheres, to avoid abuses which could either contribute to or entail doctrinal indifferentism. The non-observance of the Church’s directives on this matter creates an obstacle to progress in the authentic search for full unity among Christians. It is the task of the local Ordinary and of the Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches to see to it that the principles and norms contained in the Ecumenical Directory are faithfully applied, and with pastoral concern to take care that all possible deviations from them are avoided.

Outline of the Directory

7. The Directory begins with a declaration of the commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenism (Chapter I). This is followed by an account of the steps taken by the Catholic Church to put this commitment into practice. It does this through the organization and formation of its own members (Chapters II and III). It is to them thus organized and formed, that the provisions of Chapters IV and V on ecumenical activity are addressed.

I. The Search for Christian Unity

The ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church based on the doctrinal principles of the Second Vatican Council.

II. Organization in the Catholic Church at the Service of Christian Unity

Persons and structures involved in promoting ecumenism at all levels, and the norms that direct their activity.

III. Ecumenical Formation in the Catholic Church

Categories of people to be formed, those responsible for formation; the aim and methods of formation; its doctrinal and practical aspects.

IV. Communion in Life and Spiritual Activity Among the Baptized

The communion that exists with other Christians on the basis of the sacramental bond of Baptism, and the norms for sharing in prayer and other spiritual activities, including in particular cases sacramental sharing.

V. Ecumenical Cooperation, Dialogue and Common Witness

Principles, different forms and norms for cooperation between Christians with a view to dialogue and common witness in the world.

8. Thus, in a time of increasingly marked secularization, which calls Christians to common action in their hope for the Kingdom of God, the norms that regulate relations between Catholics and other Christians and the different forms of collaboration they practice are laid down, so that the promotion of the unity desired by Christ may be sought in a balanced and consistent way, in the line of, and according to the principles established by the Second Vatican Council.

DAPNE 1   DAPNE 2    DAPNE 3    DAPNE 4    DAPNE 5    DAPNE Notes