DAPNE 3. Ecumenical Formation

 

Note: For the purpose of training for Ecumenical Ministry, this chapter is most important for Catholics at all levels.

Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF
PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM (DAPNE)

Vatican City, March 25th, 1993

III. ECUMENICAL FORMATION IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The Necessity and Purpose of Ecumenical Formation

55. “Concern for restoring unity pertains to the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike. It extends to everyone, according to the potential of each, whether it be exercised in daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies”.57 Bearing in mind the nature of the Catholic Church, Catholics will find, if they follow faithfully the indications of the Second Vatican Council, the means of contributing to the ecumenical formation, both of individuals and of the whole community to which they belong. Thus the unity of all in Christ will be the result of a common growth and maturing. For God’s call to interior conversion 58 and rene wal 59 in the Church, so fundamental to the quest for unity, excludes no one.

For that reason, all the faithful are called upon to make a personal commitment toward promoting increasing communion with other Christians. But there is a particular contribution that can be made to this by those members of the People of God who are engaged in formation—such as heads and staffs of colleges of higher and specialized education. Those who do pastoral work, and especially parish priests and other ordained ministers, also have their role to play in this matter. It is the responsibility of each Bishop, of Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and of Episcopal Conferences to issue general directives relating to ecumenical formation.

Adaptation of Formation to the Concrete Situation of Persons

56. Ecumenism calls for renewal of attitudes and for flexibility of methods in the search for unity. Account must also be taken of the variety of persons, functions, situations and even of the specific character of the particular Churches, and the communities engaged with them, in the search for unity. Consequently, ecumenical formation requires a pedagogy that is adapted to the concrete situation of the life of persons and groups, and which respects the need for gradualness in an effort of continual renewal and of change in attitudes.

57. Not only teachers, but all those who are involved in pastoral work will be progressively formed in accordance with the following principal orientations:

a) Knowledge of Scripture and doctrinal formation are necessary from the outset, together with knowledge of the history and of the ecumenical situation in the country where one lives.

b) Knowledge of the history of divisions and of efforts at reconciliation, as well as the doctrinal positions of other Churches and ecclesial Communities will make it possible to analyse problems in their socio-cultural context and to discern in expressions of faith what is legitimate diver- sity and what constitutes divergence that is incompatible with Catholic faith.

c) This perspective will take account of the results and clarifications coming from theological dialogues and scientific studies. It is even desirable that Christians should write together the history of their divisions and of their efforts in the search for unity.

d) In this way the danger of subjective interpretations can be avoided, both in the presentation of the Catholic faith and also in Catholic understanding of the faith and of the life of other Churches and ecclesial Communities.

e) In so far as it progresses well, ecumenical formation makes concern for the unity of the Catholic Church and concern for communion with other Churches and ecclesial Communities inseparable.

f) It is implicit in the concern for this unity and this communion that Catholics should be concerned to deepen relations both with Eastern Christians and Christians in communities issuing from the Reformation.

g) The method of teaching should allow for the necessity of progressing gradually. Such a method makes it possible to distinguish and distribute the questions to be studied and their respective contents in the various phases of doctrinal formation, taking account also of the ecumenical experience of the person concerned.

Thus, all those engaged in pastoral work will be faithful to the holy and living Tradition which is a source of initiative within the Church. They should be able to evaluate and welcome truth wherever it is found. “All truth, by whomsoever it is spoken, is of the Holy Spirit”.60

A. FORMATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL

58. The concern for unity is fundamental to the understanding of the Church. The objective of ecumenical formation is that all Christians be animated by the ecumenical spirit, whatever their particular mission and task in the world and in society.

In the life of the faithful, imbued with the Spirit of Christ, the gift prayed for by Christ before his passion, the “grace of unity”, is of primary importance. This unity is first of all unity with Christ in a single movement of charity extending both towards the Father and towards the neighbour. Secondly, it is a profound and active communion of the individual faithful with the universal Church within the particular Church to which he or she belongs.61 And thirdly it is the fullness of visible unity which is sought with Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities.

The Means of Formation

59. Hearing and studying the Word of GodThe Catholic Church has always considered Scriptures, together with Tradition, “as the supreme rule of faith”; they are for its children “the food of the soul, the pure and perennial source of spiritual life”.62 Our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial Communities have a deep love and reverence for the Holy Scriptures. This occasions their constant and deep study of the sacred books.63 The Word of God, then, being one and the same for all Christians, will progressively strengthen the path towards unity insofar as it is approached with religious attention and loving study.

60. PreachingParticular care must be taken with preaching, whether within or outside of liturgical worship as such. As Paul VI says: “As evangelizers, we must offer Christ’s faithful not the image of a people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth”.64 The different parts of the liturgical year offer favourable opportunities for developing the themes of Christian unity, and for stimulating study, reflection and prayer.

Preaching should concern itself with revealing the mystery of the unity of the Church, and as far as possible promoting visibly the unity of Christians. In preaching, any improper use of Scripture must be avoided.

61. CatechesisCatechesis is not only the teaching of doctrine, but initiation into the Christian life as a whole, with full participation in the sacraments of the Church. But, as shown in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae (nn. 32-33), this teaching can help to form a genuine ecumenical attitude, by observing the following directives:

a) First, it should expound clearly, with charity and with due firmness the whole doctrine of the Catholic Church respecting in a particular way the order of the hierarchy of truths 65 and avoiding expressions and ways of presenting doctrine which would be an obstacle to dialogue.

b) When speaking of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, it is important to present their teaching correctly and honestly. Among those elements by which the Church itself is built up and given life, some—even many and very valuable ones—are to be found outside the visible limits of the Catholic Church.66 The Spirit of Christ therefore does not refuse to use these communities as means of salvation. Doing this also puts in relief the truths of faith held in common by various Christian confessions. This will help Catholics both to deepen their own faith and to know and esteem other Christians, thus making easier the search in common for the path of full unity in the whole truth.67

c) Catechesis will have an ecumenical dimension if it arouses and nourishes a true desire for unity and still more if it fosters real effort, including efforts in humility to purify ourselves, so as to remove obstacles on the way, not by facile doctrinal omissions and concessions, but by aiming at that perfect unity which the Lord wills and by using the means that He wills.68

d) Catechesis will, moreover, have this ecumenical dimension if it sets out to prepare children and young people as well as adults to live in contact with other Christians, maturing as Catholics while growing in respect for the faith of others.69

e) It can do this by discerning the possibilities offered by the distinction between the truths of faith and their modes of expression; 70 by mutual striving to understand and esteem what is good in each other’s theological traditions; by making clear that dialogue has created new relationships which, if they are well understood, can lead to collaboration and peace.71

f) The Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae should be a point of reference in the elaboration of new catechisms which are prepared in local Churches under the authority of the Bishops.

62. Liturgy. Being “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit”,72 liturgy makes an important contribution to the unity of all who believe in Christ; it is a celebration and an agent of unity; where it is fully understood and everybody fully participates in it, “it is (thus) the outstanding means by which the faithful can express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church”.73

a) Since the holy Eucharist is “the wonderful sacrament… by which the unity of the Church is both signified and brought about”,74 it is very important to see that it is celebrated well so that the faithful can participate in it, because “by offering the Immaculate Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves too. Through Christ the Mediator they should be drawn day by day into ever closer union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all”.75

b) It would be good to foster fidelity to prayer for Christian unity, according to the indications of this Directory, whether at the times the liturgy indicates—as, for example, in celebrations of the Word or else at Eastern celebrations known as “Litia” and “Moleben”—or especially during Mass—in the prayer for the faithful or the “Ectenie” litanies, or also in celebration of the votive Mass for Unity of the Church, with the help of the appropriate formularies.

An efficacious formation can also be obtained by intensifying prayer for unity at special times, such as Unity Week (18-25 January) or the week between Ascension and Pentecost, so that the Holy Spirit may confirm the Church in its unity and in the apostolicity of its universal saving mission.

63. The spiritual lifeIn the ecumenical movement it is necessary to give priority to conversion of heart, spiritual life and its renewal. “This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and can rightly be called ‘spiritual ecumenism’ “.76 Individual Christians, therefore, insofar as they live a genuine spiritual life with Christ the Saviour as its centre and the glory of God the Father as its goal, can always and everywhere share deeply in the ecumenical movement, witnessing to the Gospel of Christ with their lives.77

a) Catholics should also give value to certain elements and goods, sources of spiritual life, which are found in other Churches and ecclesial Communities, and which belong to the one Church of Christ: Holy Scripture, the sacraments and other sacred actions, faith, hope, charity and other gifts of the Spirit.78 These goods have borne fruit for example in the mystical tradition of the Christian East and the spiritual treasures of the monastic life, in the worship and piety of Anglicans, in the evangelical prayer and the diverse forms of Protestant spirituality.

b) This appreciation should not remain merely theoretical; in suitable particular conditions, it should be completed by the practical knowledge of other traditions of spirituality. Therefore, sharing prayer and participating in some form of public worship or in devotional acts of other Christians can have a formative value when in accord with existing directives.79

64. Other initiativesCollaboration in social and charitable initiatives in contexts such as schools, hospitals and prisons, has a proven formational value. So too has work for peace in the world or in particular regions where it is threatened, and for human rights and religious liberty.80

These activities, properly directed, can show the efficacy of the social application of the Gospel and the practical force of ecumenical sensitivity in various places. Periodic reflection on the Christian basis of such activities, testing their quality and their fruitfulness, while correcting their defects, will also be educative and constructive.

Suitable Settings for Formation

65. These are the places where human and Christian maturity, the sense of companionship and communion, grow step by step. Of particular importance in this connection are family, parish, school, different groups, associations and ecclesial movements.

66. The family, called the “domestic church” by the Second Vatican Council,81 is the primary place in which unity will be fashioned or weakened each day through the encounter of persons, who, though different in many ways, accept each other in a communion of love. It is also there that care must be taken not to entertain prejudices, but on the contrary to search for the truth in all things.

a) Awareness of its Christian identity and mission makes the family ready to be a community for others, a community not only open to the Church but also to human society, ready for dialogue and social involvement. Like the Church, it should be a setting in which the Gospel is transmitted and which radiates the Gospel; indeed Lumen Gentium states that in the domestic church “parents should by their words and example be the first preachers of the faith to their children” (n. 11).

b) Mixed marriage families have the duty to proclaim Christ with the fullness implied in a common baptism, they have too the delicate task of making themselves builders of unity.82 “Their common baptism and the dynamism of grace provide the spouses in these marriages with the basis and motivation for expressing their unity in the sphere of moral and spiritual values”.83

67. The parishas an ecclesial unity gathered around the Eucharist, should be, and proclaim itself to be the place of authentic ecumenical witness. Thus a great task for the parish is to educate its members in the ecumenical spirit. This calls for care with the content and form of preaching, especially of the homily, and with catechesis. It calls too for a pastoral programme which involves someone charged with promoting and planning ecumenical activity, working in close harmony with the parish priest; this will help in the various forms of collaboration with the corresponding parishes of other Christians. Finally it demands that the parish be not torn apart by internal polemics, ideological polarization or mutual recrimination between Christians, but that everyone, according to his or her own spirit and calling, serve the truth in love.84

68. The schoolof every kind and grade, should give an ecumenical dimension to its religious teaching, and should aim in its own way to train hearts and minds in human and religious values, educating for dialogue, for peace and for personal relationships.85

a) The spirit of charity, of respect, and of dialogue demands the elimination of language and prejudices which distort the image of other Christians. This holds especially for Catholic schools where the young must grow in faith, in prayer, in resolve to put into practice the Christian Gospel of unity. They should be taught genuine ecumenism, according to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

b) Where possible, in collaboration with other teachers, different subjects, e.g. history and art, should be treated in a way that underlines the ecumenical problems in a spirit of dialogue and unity. To this end it is also desirable that teachers be correctly and adequately informed about the origins, history and doctrines of other Churches and ecclesial Communities especially those that exist in their region.

69. Groups, associations, ecclesial movements. Christian life, notably the life of particular Churches has been enriched throughout history by a variety of expressions, enterprises and spiritualities, according to the charisms given by the Spirit for the building up of the Church, revealing a clear distinction of tasks in the service of the community.

Those involved in such groups, movements and associations should be imbued with a solid ecumenical spirit, in living out their baptismal commitment in the world,86 whether by seeking Catholic unity through dialogue and communion with similar movements and associations—or the wider communion with other Churches and ecclesial Communities and with the movements and groups inspired by them. These efforts should be carried out on the basis of a sound formation and in the light of Christian wisdom and prudence.

B. FORMATION OF THOSE ENGAGED IN PASTORAL WORK

1. Ordained Ministers

70. Among the principal duties of every future ordained minister is to shape his own personality, to the extent possible, in such a way as will serve his mission of helping others to meet Christ. In this perspective, the candidate for the ministry needs to develop fully those human qualities which make a person acceptable and credible among people, checking regularly his own language and capacity for dialogue so as to acquire an authentically ecumenical disposition. If this is essential for one who has the office of teacher and shepherd in a particular Church, like the Bishop, or one who as a priest takes care of souls, it is no less important for the deacon, and in a particular way for the permanent deacon, who is called to serve the community of the faithful.

71. In taking initiatives and promoting encounters, the minister must act clearly and with faithfulness to the Church, respecting the authority of others and following the disposition which the pastors of the Church are entitled to make for the ecumenical movement in the universal Church and in the single local Churches, to ensure that collaboration in the building-up of Christian unity shall be free of prejudice and ill-considered initiatives.

a) Doctrinal Formation

72. Episcopal Conferences should ensure that plans of study give an ecumenical dimension to each subject and provide specifically for the study of ecumenism. They should also ensure that plans of study are in conformity with the indications contained in this Directory.

a–1) The Ecumenical Dimension in the Different Subjects

73. Ecumenical activity “has to be fully and sincerely Catholic, that is, faithful to the truth we have received from the Apostles and the Fathers and consonant with the faith the Catholic Church has always professed”.87

74. Students must learn to distinguish between on the one hand revealed truths, which all require the same assent of faith, and on the other hand the manner of stating those truths and theological doctrines.88 As far as the formulation of revealed truths is concerned, account will be taken of what is said by, among others, the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Mysterium Ecclesiae, n. 5: “The truths which the Church intends actually to teach through its dogmatic formularies are, without doubt, distinct from the changing conceptions proper to a given age and can be expressed without them, but it can nonetheless happen that they will be expressed by the magisterium, in terms that bear traces of those conceptions. Account having been taken of these considerations, it must also be said that from the beginning the dogmatic formularies of the magisterium have always been appropriate for communicating revealed truth and that, remaining unchanged, they will always communicate it to those who interpret them properly”.89 Students should therefore learn to make the distinction between the “deposit of faith itself or the truths which are contained in our venerable doctrine”,90 and the way in which these truths are formulated; between the truths to be proclaimed and the various ways of perceiving them and shedding light upon them; between the apostolic Tradition and strictly ecclesiastical traditions, and at the same time they should learn to recognize and respect the permanent value of dogmatic formulations. From the time of their philosophical formation, students should be prepared to appreciate the legitimate diversity in theology which derives from the different methods and language theologians use in penetrating the divine mysteries. From which it follows that different theological formulations are often more complementary than contradictory.

75. Moreover, the “hierarchy of truths” of Catholic doctrine should always be respected; these truths all demand due assent of faith, yet are not all equally central to the mystery revealed in Jesus Christ, since they vary in their connection with the foundation of the Christian faith.91

a–2) The Ecumenical Dimension of Theological Disciplines in general

76. Ecumenical openness is a constitutive dimension of the formation of future priests and deacons: “Sacred theology and other branches of knowledge, especially those of an historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond as exactly as possible with the facts”.92 The ecumenical dimension in theological formation should not be limited to different categories of teaching. Because we are talking about interdisciplinary teaching—and not only “pluridisciplinary”—this will involve cooperation between the professors concerned and reciprocal coordination. In each subject, even in those which are fundamental, the following aspects may be suitably emphasized:

a) the elements of the Christian patrimony of truth and holiness which are common to all Churches and ecclesial Communities, even though these are sometimes presented according to varying theological expressions;

b) the riches of liturgy, spirituality and doctrine proper to each communion, but which can help Christians towards a deeper knowledge of the nature of the Church;

c) points of disagreement on matters of faith and morals which can nonetheless encourage deeper exploration of the Word of God and lead to distinguishing real from apparent contradictions.

a–3) The Ecumenical Dimension of Individual Theological Disciplines

77. In every theological discipline an ecumenical approach should bring us to consider the link between the particular subject and the mystery of the unity of the Church. Moreover, the teacher should instil in his students fidelity to the whole authentic Christian Tradition in matters of theology, spirituality and ecclesiastical discipline. When students compare their own patrimony with the riches of the other Christian traditions of East and West, whether in their ancient or modern expression, they will become more deeply conscious of this fullness.93

78. This comparative study is important in all subjects: in the study of Scripture, which is the common source of faith for all Christians; in the study of the apostolic Tradition in the Fathers of the Church and in other church writers of East and West; of liturgy, where the various forms of divine worship and their doctrinal and spiritual importance are scientifically compared; in dogmatic and moral theology, especially in respect of problems arising from ecumenical dialogue; in church history, where there should be a careful enquiry into the unity of the Church and into the causes of separation; in canon law, which must distinguish clearly between divine law and those ecclesiastical laws which can change with time, culture or local tradition; and finally, in pastoral and missionary training and sociological studies, which must pay attention to the conditions common to all Christians facing the modern world. Thus the fullness of Divine Revelation will be expressed in a better and more complete way, and we will better fulfil the mission for the world which Christ entrusted to his Church.

a–4) A Specific Course in Ecumenism

79. Even though an ecumenical dimension should permeate all theological formation, it is of particular importance that a course in ecumenism be given at an appropriate point in the first cycle. Such a course should be compulsory. In broad and adaptable terms, it might have the following content:

a) the notions of catholicity, of the visible and organic unity of the Church, of the oecumene,ecumenism; from their historical origins to the present meaning from the Catholic viewpoint;

b) the doctrinal basis of ecumenical activity with particular reference to the already existing bonds of communion between Churches and ecclesial Communities; 94

c) the history of ecumenism, which includes that of the divisions and of the many attempts during the ages to reestablish unity, their achievements and failures, the present state of the search for unity;

d) the purpose and method of ecumenism, the various forms of union and of collaboration, the hope of re-establishing unity, the conditions of unity, the concept of full and perfect unity;

e) the “institutional” aspect and the contemporary life in the various Christian Communities: doctrinal tendencies, the real causes of separations, missionary efforts, spirituality, forms of worship, need for better knowledge of Eastern theology and spirituality; 95

f) some more specific problems such as shared worship, proselytism and irenicism, religious freedom, mixed marriages, the role of the laity and, in particular, of women in the Church;

g) spiritual ecumenism, especially the significance of prayer for unity and other forms of tending towards the unity prayed for by Christ.

80. Studies might be organized on some plan such as this:

a) it would be good if a general introduction to ecumenism were offered fairly early so that the students could be sensitized, right from the beginning of their theological studies, to the ecumenical dimension of their studies.96 This introduction would deal with the basic questions in ecumenism;

b) the specific part of the teaching on ecumenism would find its normal place towards the end either of the first cycle of theological studies or of the seminary course, so that the students in gaining a broad knowledge of ecumenism could make a synthesis of this with their theological formation;

c) text books and other aids should be carefully chosen: they should expound with fidelity the teaching of other Christians in history, theology and spirituality so as to permit honest and objective comparisons and to stimulate a further deepening of Catholic doctrine.

81. It would be useful to invite lecturers and experts of other traditions, in the context of the directives on collaboration between Catholic institutions and the centres under the auspices of other Christians.97 In case of particular problems arising in respect of a specific seminary or institute, it is up to the diocesan Bishop to decide, according to the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and after having ascertained the moral and professional qualities of prospective lecturers from other Churches and ecclesial Communities, which of the initiatives can be pursued under the specific responsibility of the academic authorities. In these cultural exchanges, the continuing Catholic character of the institution in question as well as its right and duty to form its own candidates and to teach Catholic doctrine according to the norms of the Church, should always be ensured.

b) Ecumenical Experience

82. In the formative period, in order that the approach to ecumenism is not cut off from life but rooted in the living experience of communities, encounters and discussions can usefully be organized with other Christians, at the universal and the local level, while observing the relative norms of the Catholic Church.

Representatives of other communities with a professional and religious preparation and the ecumenical spirit necessary for a sincere and constructive dialogue may be invited. Meetings with students of other Churches and ecclesial Communities can also be arranged.98 Institutions for formation differ so much, however, that it is not possible to give uniform rules for this. As a matter of fact, reality allows for different nuances according to the diversity of nations and regions, as well as for difference of relations between the Catholic Church and the other Churches and ecclesial Communities on the level of ecclesiology, of collaboration and dialogue. Here also the necessity for gradualness and adaptation is very important and is unavoidable. Superiors must apply general principles and adapt these according to their particular situations and occasions.

2. Ministers and Collaborators not Ordained

a) Doctrinal Formation

83. Besides ordained ministers, there are other recognized collaborators in pastoral work—catechists, teachers and other lay helpers. Local Churches have institutes of religious science, pastoral institutes or other centres of formation or ‘aggiornamento’ for their formation. The same study programmes and norms as for the theological institutes apply here, but need to be adapted to the level of these participants and their studies.

84. More particularly, given the legitimate variety of charisms and of the work of monasteries, institutes of consecrated life, and societies of apostolic life, it is very important that “all communities should participate in the life of the Church. According to its individual character, each should make its own and foster in every possible way the enterprises and objectives of the Church”, including the “ecumenical field”.99

Formation here should start in the novitiate and continue through the further stages. The Ratio formationis of the various institutes should, in analogy with the curricula of the ordained ministers, stress both an ecumenical dimension in every subject and provide for a specific course of ecumenism appropriately adapted to the circumstances and local situations. At the same time, it is important that the competent authority of the institute see to the formation of specialists in ecumenism to serve as guides for the ecumenical commitment of the whole institute.

b) Ecumenical Experience

85. To translate study into experience, it is useful to encourage contacts and exchanges between Catholic monasteries and religious communities and those of other Churches and religious Communities. These can take the form of exchanges of information, spiritual or occasionally even material help, or can be in the form of cultural exchanges.

86. Given the importance of the role of the laity in the Church and in society, laity with ecumenical responsibilities should be encouraged to develop contacts and exchanges with other Churches and ecclesial Communities, in accordance with the norms of this Directory.100

C. SPECIALIZED FORMATION

87. The importance of formation for dialogue. Taking account of the influence of higher cultural institutes, it is clear that ecclesiastical faculties and other institutes of higher education play a specially important part in the preparation for and conduct of ecumenical dialogue and for progress towards that Christian unity which dialogue itself helps Christians to attain. Pedagogical preparation for dialogue must meet the following requirements:

a) a sincere personal commitment, lived out in faith, without which dialogue is no longer a dialogue between brothers and sisters but rather a mere academic exercise;

b) the search for new ways and means for building up mutual relationships and re-establishing unity based on greater fidelity to the Gospel and on the authentic profession of the Christian faith, in truth and charity;

c) the conviction that ecumenical dialogue is not a purely private matter between persons or particular groups but that it takes place within the framework of the commitment of the whole Church and must in consequence be carried out in a way that is coherent with the teaching and the directives of its Pastors;

d) a readiness to recognize that the members of the different Churches and ecclesial Communities can help us better to understand and to expound accurately the doctrine and life of their Communities;

e) respect for the conscience and personal conviction of anyone who expounds an aspect or a doctrine of his or her own Church or its particular way of understanding Divine Revelation;

f) the recognition of the fact that not everybody is equally qualified to take part in dialogue, since there are various degrees of education, maturity of mind and spiritual progress.

The Role of the Ecclesiastical Faculties

88. The Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana lays down that in the first cycle of the theology faculty, fundamental theology should be studied with reference also to ecumenical questions.101

In the second cycle too, “ecumenical questions should be carefully treated, as directed by competent ecclesiastical authority”.102

In other words, it will be opportune to give courses of specialization in ecumenism which, besides the elements indicated above in n. 79, could also deal with:

a) the present state of relations between the Catholic Church and the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, based on study of the published results of dialogue;

b) the study of the patrimony and traditions of other Christians, Eastern and Western;

c) the importance in the ecumenical movement of the World Council of Churches and the present state of the Catholic Church’s relations with the said Council;

d) the role of national and regional Councils of Churches, their achievements and difficulties.

It must also be remembered that the ecumenical dimension should also be present in theological teaching and research.

The Role of Catholic Universities

89. These too are called on to give sound ecumenical formation. Examples of the appropriate measures they may take are these:

a) to foster, when the subject calls for it, an ecumenical dimension to methods of teaching and research;

b) to organize discussions and study days on ecumenical questions;

c) to organize conferences and meetings for joint study, work and social activity, setting aside time for enquiry into Christian principles of social action and the means of putting them into practice. These occasions, whether involving only Catholics or bringing together Catholics and other Christians, should promote cooperation as far as possible with other advanced institutes in the area;

d) space could be given in university journals and reviews to reports on ecumenical events, and also to deeper ecumenical studies, with preference given to comments on the documents resulting from inter-church dialogue;

e) in academic halls of residence there is very much to recommend good relations between Catholics and other Christian students. With suitable guidance, they can learn, through these relations, to live together in a deeper ecumenical spirit and be faithful witnesses of their Christian faith;

f) it is important to give emphasis to prayer for unity, not only during the Week of Prayer for this purpose but also at other times during the year. Depending on circumstances of place and persons, and in conformity with the existing rules about shared worship, joint retreats under the guidance of a spiritual master, may also be envisaged;

g) there is a wide field of common witness in social or welfare works. Students should be trained and encouraged in this—not only theology students, but also those of other faculties, such as law, sociology and political science. By their contribution these students will help to promote and realize such initiatives;

h) chaplains, student counsellors and professors will have a particular concern to carry out their tasks in an ecumenical spirit, especially by organizing some of the initiatives indicated above. This obligation de- mands from them a deep knowledge of the doctrine of the Church, an adequate competence in academic subjects, unfailing prudence and a balanced attitude: all these qualities should enable them to help their students to harmonize their own life of faith with openness to others.

The Role of Specialized Ecumenical Institutes

90. To carry out its ecumenical task the Church needs a good number of experts in this matter—clerics, religious, lay men and women. These are necessary even in regions where Catholics are in the majority.

a) This calls for specialized institutes equipped with:

— adequate documentation on ecumenism, especially on existing dialogues and future programmes;

— and a staff of well-prepared and capable teachers both of Catholic doctrine and ecumenism.

b) These institutes should carry on ecumenical research in cooperation, as far as possible, with experts from other Christian traditions and their faithful; they should organize ecumenical meetings, such as conferences and congresses; and keep in touch with national ecumenical commissions and with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity so as to be well informed and up to date with what is going on in interconfessional dialogue and with the progress accomplished.

c) Experts trained this way will supply personnel for the ecumenical task in order to promote the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church, whether as members and directors of the responsible diocesan, national or international organisms, or as teachers of ecumenical subjects in institutes or ecclesiastical centres or as promoters of a genuine ecumenical spirit and action in their own surroundings.

D. PERMANENT FORMATION

91. Doctrinal formation and learning experience are not limited to the period of formation, but ask for a continuous “aggiornamento” of the ordained ministers and pastoral workers, in view of the continual evolution within the ecumenical movement.

Bishops and religious superiors, when organizing pastoral renewal programmes for clergy—through meetings, conferences, retreats, days of recollection or study of pastoral problems—should give careful attention to ecumenism along the following lines:

a) Systematic instruction of priests, religious, deacons and laity on the present state of the ecumenical movement, so that they may be able to introduce the ecumenical viewpoint into preaching, catechesis, prayer and Christian life in general. If it seems suitable and possible, it would be good to invite a minister of another Church to expound its tradition or speak on pastoral problems which are often common to all.

b) Where opportunity offers, and with the consent of the diocesan Bishop, Catholic clergy and those with pastoral responsibility in the diocese could take part in interconfessional meetings aimed at improving reciprocal relationships and at trying to resolve pastoral problems together. To give concrete form to these initiatives it might be useful to create local and regional clergy councils or associations, etc., or to join similar already existing societies.

c) Theology faculties and institutes of higher learning, as well as seminaries and other institutes of formation, can contribute to permanent formation, either by arranging courses for those involved in pastoral work, or by providing teachers or subsidies for the disciplines and courses organized by others.

d) Very useful also are the following: accurate information through the media of the local Church and, if possible, through the secular media; exchange of information with the media services of other Churches and ecclesial Communities; a permanent and systematic relationship with the diocesan and national ecumenical commission which will ensure precise and up to date documentation on ecumenical developments to all Catholics working in the field.

e) Full use should be made of the various kinds of spiritual meetings to explore those elements of spirituality which are held in common, as well as those which are particular. These meetings provide an opportunity to reflect on unity and to pray for the reconciliation of all Christians. The participation of members of different Churches and ecclesial Communities at such meetings can help to foster mutual understanding and the growth of spiritual communion.

f) Finally, it is desirable that an evaluation of ecumenical activity be made periodically.

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