Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF
PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM (DAPNE)
Vatican City, March 25th, 1993
V. SHARING SPIRITUAL ACTIVITIES AND RESOURCES
161. When Christians live and pray together in the way described in Chapter IV, they are giving witness to the faith which they share and to their baptism, in the name of God, the Father of all, in his Son Jesus, the Redeemer of all, and in the Holy Spirit who transforms and unites all things through the power of love. Based on this communion of life and spiritual gifts, there are many other forms of ecumenical cooperation that express and promote unity and enhance the witness to the saving power of the Gospel that Christians give to the world. When Christians cooperate in studying and propagating the Bible, in liturgical studies, in catechesis and higher education, in pastoral care, in evangelization and in their service of charity to a world that is struggling to realize its ideals of justice and peace and love, they are putting into practice what was proposed in the Decree on Ecumenism:
“Before the whole world, let all Christians profess their faith in God, one and three, in the incarnate Son of God, our Redeemer and Lord. United in their efforts, and with mutual respect, let them bear witness to our common hope, which does not play us false. Since in our times cooperation in social matters is very widely practiced, all without exception are summoned to united effort. Those who believe in God have a stronger summons, but the strongest claims are laid on Christians, since they have been sealed with the name of Christ. Cooperation among all Christians vividly expresses that bond which already unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ the Servant”.156
162. Christians cannot close their hearts to the crying needs of our contemporary world. The contribution they are able to make to all the areas of human life in which the need for salvation is manifested will be more effective when they make it together, and when they are seen to be united in making it. Hence they will want to do everything together that is allowed by their faith. The absence of full communion between different Churches and ecclesial Communities, the divergences that still exist in teaching regarding both faith and morals, the wounded memories and the heritage of a history of separation—each of these set limits to what Christians can do together at this time. Their cooperation can help them to overcome the barriers to full communion and at the same time to put together their resources for building Christian life and service and the common witness that it gives, in view of the mission which they share:
“In this unity in mission, which is decided principally by Christ himself, all Christians must find what already unites them even before their full communion is achieved.”157
Forms and Structures of Ecumenical Cooperation
163. Ecumenical collaboration can take the form of participation by different Churches and ecclesial Communities in programmes already set up by one of their number. Or there may be a coordination of independent actions, with consequent avoidance of duplication and of the unnecessary multiplication of administrative structures. Or there may be joint initiatives and programmes. Various kinds of councils or committees may be set up, in more or less permanent form, to facilitate relations between Churches and ecclesial Communities and to promote cooperation and common witness among them.
164. Catholic participation in all forms of ecumenical meetings and cooperative projects should respect the norms established by the local ecclesiastical authority. Ultimately, it is for the diocesan Bishop, taking account of what has been decided at the regional or national level, to judge the acceptability and appropriateness of all forms of local ecumenical action. Bishops, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences should act in accord with the di- rectives of the Holy See and in a special way with those of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
165. Meetings of authorized representatives of Churches and ecclesial Communities that occur periodically or on special occasions can help greatly to promote ecumenical cooperation. As well as being themselves an important witness to the commitment of those who participate in the promotion of Christian unity, they can give the stamp of authority to the cooperative efforts of members of the Churches and ecclesial Communities they represent. They may also provide the occasion for examining what specific questions and tasks of ecumenical cooperation need to be addressed and for taking necessary decisions about the setting up of working groups or programmes to deal with them.
Councils of Churches and Christian Councils
166. Councils of Churches and Christian Councils are among the more permanent structures that are set up for promoting unity and ecumenical cooperation. A Council of Churches is composed of Churches 158 and is responsible to the Churches that set it up. A Christian Council is composed of other Christian groups and organizations as well as Churches. There are also other institutions for cooperation similar to these Councils but having other titles. Generally, Councils and similar institutions seek to enable their members to work together, to engage in dialogue, to overcome divisions and misunderstandings, to engage in prayer and work for unity, and to give, as far as possible, a common Christian witness and service. They are to be evaluated according to their activities and to the self-understanding set out in their constitutions. They have only the authority accorded to them by their constituent members. As a rule, they do not have responsibility for negotiations directed to the union of Churches.
167. Since it is desirable for the Catholic Church to find the proper expression for various levels of its relation with other Churches and ecclesial Communities, and since Councils of Churches and Christian Councils are among the more important forms of ecumenical cooperation, the growing contacts which the Catholic Church is having with Councils in many parts of the world are to be welcomed.
168. The decision to actually join a Council is the responsibility of the Bishops in the area served by the Council who also have responsibility for overseeing the Catholic participation in these Councils. For national Councils, that will generally be the Synod of Eastern Catholic Churches or the Episcopal Conference (except where there is only one diocese in a nation). In considering the question of membership of a Council, the appropriate authorities should be in touch during the preparation of the decision with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
169. The pastoral advisability of joining a Council is one of the many factors that are to be taken into account in taking such a step. It must also be clear that participation in the life of the Council can be compatible with the teaching of the Catholic Church, and does not blur its unique and specific identity. The first concern should be that of doctrinal clarity, especially as far as ecclesiology is concerned. Councils of Churches and Christian Councils do not in fact contain either within themselves or among themselves the beginning of a new Church which could replace the communion that now exists in the Catholic Church. They are not to proclaim themselves Churches or to claim for themselves an authority which would permit them to confer a ministry of Word or Sacrament.159 Careful attention should be given to the Council’s system of representation and voting rights, to its decision-making processes, to its manner of making public statements and to the degree of authority attributed to such statements. Clear and precise agreement on these matters should be reached before membership is taken up.160
170. Catholic membership of a local, national or regional Council is a quite distinct matter from the question of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. The World Council may, indeed, invite selected Councils “to enter into working relationships as associated Councils”, but it does not have any authority or control over these Councils or their member Churches.
171. Joining a Council ought to be seen as undertaking serious responsibilities. The Catholic Church should be represented by well-qualified and committed persons. In the exercise of their mandate, they should be clearly aware of the limits beyond which they cannot commit the Church without referring the matter to the authority that has appointed them. The more attentively the work of these Councils is followed by their member Churches, the more important and efficacious will be the Councils’ contribution to the ecumenical movement.
172. Dialogue is at the heart of ecumenical cooperation and accompanies all forms of it. Dialogue involves both listening and replying, seeking both to understand and to be understood. It is a readiness to put questions and to be questioned. It is to be forthcoming about oneself and trustful of what others say about themselves. The parties in dialogue must be ready to clarify their ideas further, and modify their personal views and ways of living and acting, allowing themselves to be guided in this by authentic love and truth. Reciprocity and mutual commitment are essential elements in dialogue, as is also a sense that the partners are together on an equal footing.161 Ecumenical dialogue allows members of different Churches and ecclesial Communities to get to know one another, to identify matters of faith and practice which they share and points on which they differ. They seek to understand the roots of such differences and assess to what extent they constitute a real obstacle to a common faith. When differences are recognised as being a real barrier to communion, they try to find ways to overcome them in the light of those points of faith which they already hold in common.
173. The Catholic Church may engage in dialogue at a diocesan level, at the level of Episcopal Conferences or Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches, and at the level of the universal Church. Its structure, as a universal communion in faith and sacramental life, allows it to present a consistent and united position on each of these levels. Where there is just one partner Church or Community in the dialogue, it is called bilateral; when there are several it is described as multilateral.
174. On the local level there are countless opportunities for exchanges between Christians, ranging from informal conversations that occur in daily life to sessions for the common examination in a Christian perspective of issues of local life or of concern to particular professional groups (doctors, social workers, parents, educators) and to study groups for specifically ecumenical subjects. Dialogues may be carried on by groups of lay people, by groups of clergy, by groups of professional theologians or by various combinations of these. Whether they have official standing (as a result of having been set up or formally authorized by ecclesiastical authority) or not, these exchanges must always be marked by a strong ecclesial sense. Catholics who take part in them will feel the need to be well informed about their faith and to deepen their living of it, and they will be careful to remain in communion of thought and desire with their Church.
175. The participants in certain dialogues are appointed by the hierarchy to take part not in a personal capacity, but as delegated representatives of their Church. Such mandates can be given by the local Ordinary, the Synod of Eastern Catholic Churches or the Episcopal Conference within its territory, or by the Holy See. In these cases, the Catholic participants have a special responsibility towards the authority that has sent them. The approval of that authority is also needed before any results of the dialogue engage the Church officially.
176. Catholic participants in dialogue follow the principles about Catholic doctrine set down by Unitatis Redintegratio:
“The manner and order in which Catholic belief is expressed should in no way become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assured genuine meaning.
At the same time, Catholic belief needs to be explained more profoundly and precisely, in ways and in terminology which our separated brethren too can easily understand.
Furthermore, Catholic theologians engaged in ecumenical dialogue, while standing fast by the teaching of the Church and searching together with separated brethren into the divine mysteries, should act with love for truth, with charity, and with humility. When comparing doctrines they should remember that in Catholic teaching there exists an order or ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relationship to the foundation of the Christian faith. Thus the way will be opened for this kind of fraternal rivalry to incite all to a deeper realization and a clearer expression of the unfathomable riches of Christ”.162
The question of the hierarchy of truths is also taken up in the document Reflections and Suggestions Concerning Ecumenical Dialogue:
“Neither in the life nor in the teaching of the whole Church is everything presented on the same level. Certainly all revealed truths demand the same acceptance of faith, but according to the greater or lesser proximity that they have to the basis of the revealed mystery, they are variously placed with regard to one another and have varying connections among themselves”.163
177. The subject of dialogue may be a broad range of doctrinal issues covered over an extended period of time, or a single issue dealt with in a definite time framework; or it may be a pastoral or missionary problem about which the Churches wish to find a common position in order to eliminate conflicts that arise between them and to promote mutual help and common witness. For some questions a bilateral dialogue may be found more effective, for others multilateral dialogue gives better results. Experience shows that the two forms of dialogue complement one another in the complex task of promoting Christian unity. The results of a bilateral dialogue should be promptly communicated to all other interested Churches or ecclesial Communities.
178. A commission or committee set up to engage in dialogue on behalf of two or more Churches or ecclesial Communities may reach various degrees of agreement about the subject assigned to it and formulate their conclusions in a statement. Even before such agreement is reached, it may sometimes be judged useful by a commission to issue a statement or report that marks the convergencies that have been established, that identifies the problems that remain and suggests the direction that future dialogue might take. All statements or reports of dialogue commissions are submitted to the Churches concerned for assessment. Statements produced by dialogue commissions have intrinsic weight because of the competence and status of their authors. They are not, however, binding on the Catholic Church until they have been approved by the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities.
179. When the results of a dialogue are considered by proper authorities to be ready for submission for evaluation, the members of the People of God, according to their role or charism, must be involved in this critical process. The faithful, as a matter of fact, are called to exercise: “the supernatural appreciation of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people, when ‘from the Bishops to the last of the faithful’ they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals. By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (magisterium), and obeying it, receives not the mere word of men, but truly the Word of God,164 the faith once for all delivered to the saints.165 The people unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life”.166
Every effort should be made to find appropriate ways of bringing the results of dialogues to the attention of all members of the Church. In so far as possible, an explanation should be provided in respect of new insights into the faith, new witnesses to its truth, new forms of expression developed in dialogue—as well as with regard to the extent of the agreements being proposed. This will allow for an accurate judgment being made in respect of the reactions of all concerned as they assess the fidelity of these dialogue results to the Tradition of faith received from the Apostles and transmitted to the community of believers under the guidance of their authorized teachers. It is to be hoped that this manner of proceeding would be adopted by each Church or ecclesial Community that is partner to the dialogue and indeed by all Churches and ecclesial Communities that are hearing the call to unity. Cooperation between the Churches in this effort is most desirable.
180. The life of faith and the prayer of faith, no less than reflection on the doctrine of faith, enter into this process of reception, by which the whole Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit “who distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank” 167 and guides in a special way the ministry of those who teach, makes its own the fruits of a dialogue, in a process of listening, of testing, of judging and of living.
181. In assessing and assimilating new forms of expression of the faith, which may appear in statements issued from ecumenical dialogue, or even ancient expressions which have been taken up again in preference to certain more recent theological terms, Catholics will bear in mind the distinction made in the Decree on Ecumenism between “the way that Church teaching has been formulated” and “the deposit of faith itself”.168 They will take care however to avoid ambiguous expressions especially in the search for agreement on points of doctrine that are traditionally controversial. They will also take account of the way in which the Second Vatican Council itself applied this distinction in its own formulation of Catholic faith; they must also allow for the “hierarchy of truths” in Catholic doctrine noted by the Decree on Ecumenism.169
182. The process of reception includes theological reflection of a technical nature on the Tradition of faith, as well as on the contemporary liturgical and pastoral reality of the Church. Important contributions to this process come from the specific competence of theological faculties. The whole process is guided by the official teaching authority of the Church which has the responsibility of making the final judgment about ecumenical statements. The new insights that are thus accepted enter into the life of the Church, renewing in a certain way that which fosters reconciliation with other Churches and ecclesial Communities.
Common Bible Work
183. The Word of God that is written in the Scriptures nourishes the life of the Church in manifold ways 170 and is “a precious instrument in the mighty hand of God for attaining to that unity which the Saviour holds out to all men”.171 Veneration of the Scriptures is a fundamental bond of unity between Christians, one that holds firm even when the Churches and Communities to which they belong are not in full communion with each other. Everything that can be done to make members of the Churches and ecclesial Communities read the Word of God, and to do that together when possible (e.g., Bible Weeks), reinforces this bond of unity that already unites them, helps them to be open to the unifying action of God and strengthens the common witness to the saving Word of God which they give to the world. The provision and diffusion of suitable editions of the Bible is a prerequisite to the hearing of the Word. While the Catholic Church continues to produce editions of the Bible that meet its own specific standards and requirements, it also cooperates willingly with other Churches and ecclesial Communities in the making of translations and in the publication of common editions in accordance with what was foreseen by the Second Vatican Council and is provided for in the Code of Canon Law.172 It sees ecumenical cooperation in this field as a valuable form of common service and common witness in the Church and to the world.
184. The Catholic Church is involved in this cooperation in many ways and at different levels. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was involved in the setting up, in 1969, of the World Catholic Federation for the Biblical Apostolate (now “Catholic Biblical Federation)”, as an international Catholic organization of a public character to further the pastoral implementation of Dei Verbum, ch. VI. In accordance with this objective, whenever local circumstances allow, collaboration at the level of local Churches as well as at regional level, between the ecumenical officer and the local sections of the Federation should be strongly encouraged.
185. Through the General Secretariat of the Catholic Biblical Federation, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity maintains and develops relations with the United Bible Societies, an international Christian organization which has published jointly with the Secretariat “Guidelines for Interconfessional Cooperation in Translating the Bible“.173 This document sets out the principles, methods and concrete orientations of this special type of collaboration in the biblical field. This collaboration has already yielded good results. Similar contacts and cooperation between institutions devoted to the publication and use of the Bible are encouraged on all levels of the life of the Church. They can help cooperation between the Churches and ecclesial Communities in missionary work, catechetics and religious education, as well as in common prayer and study. They can often result in the joint production of a Bible that may be used by several Churches and ecclesial Communities in a given cultural area, or for specific purposes such as study or liturgical life.174 Cooperation of this kind can be an antidote to the use of the Bible in a fundamentalist way or for sectarian purposes.
186. Catholics can share the study of the Scriptures with members of other Churches and ecclesial Communities in many different ways and on many different levels. This sharing goes from the kind of work that can be done in neighbourhood or parochial groups to that of scholarly research among professional exegetes. In order to have ecumenical value, at whatever level it is done, this work needs to be grounded on faith and to nourish faith. It will often bring home to the participants how the doctrinal positions of different Churches and ecclesial Communities, and differences in their approaches to the use and exegesis of the Bible, lead to different interpretations of particular passages. It is helpful for Catholics when the editions of the Scriptures that they use actually draw attention to passages in which the doctrine of the Church is at issue. They will want to face up to any difficulties and disagreements that come from the ecumenical use of the Scriptures with an understanding of and a loyalty to the teaching of the Church. But this need not prevent them from recognizing how much they are at one with other Christians in the interpretation of the Scriptures. They will come to appreciate the light that the experience and traditions of the different Churches can throw on parts of the Scriptures that are especially significant for them. They will become more open to the possibility of finding new starting points in the Scriptures themselves for discussion about controversial issues. They will be challenged to discover the meaning of God’s Word in relation to contemporary human situations that they share with their fellow Christians. Moreover, they will experience with joy the unifying power of God’s Word.
Common Liturgical Texts
187. Churches and ecclesial Communities whose members live within a culturally homogeneous area should draw up together, where possible, a text of the most important Christian prayers (the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, a Trinitarian Doxology, the Glory to God in the Highest). These would be for regular use by all the Churches, and ecclesial Communities or at least for use when they pray together on ecumenical occasions. Agreement on a version of the Psalter for liturgical use, or at least of some of the more frequently used psalms would also be desirable; a similar agreement for common Scriptural readings for liturgical use should also be explored. The use of liturgical and other prayers that come from the period of the undivided Church can help to foster an ecumenical sense. Common hymn books, or at least common collections of hymns to be included in the hymn books of the different Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as cooperation in developing liturgical music, are also to be recommended. When Christians pray together, with one voice, their common witness reaches to heaven as well as being heard on earth.
Ecumenical Cooperation in Catechesis
188. To complement the normal catechesis that Catholics must receive in any event, the Catholic Church recognizes that, in situations of religious pluralism, cooperation in the field of catechesis can enrich its own life as well as that of other Churches and ecclesial Communities. It can also strengthen their ability to give a common witness to the truth of the Gospel, in so far as this is possible. The basis of this cooperation, its conditions and its limits are set out in the Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae:
“Such experiences have a theological foundation in the elements shared by all Christians. But the communion of faith between Catholics and other Christians is not complete and perfect; in certain cases there are even profound divergences. Consequently, this ecumenical collaboration is by its very nature limited; it must never mean a ?reduction’ to a common minimum. Furthermore, catechesis does not consist merely in the teaching of doctrine; it also means initiating into the whole of Christian life, bringing full participation in the sacraments of the Church. Therefore, where there is an experience of ecumenical collaboration in the field of catechesis, care must be taken that the education of Catholics in the Catholic Church should be well ensured in matters of doctrine and of Christian living”.175
189. In some countries a form of Christian teaching common to Catholics and other Christians is imposed by the state or by particular circumstances, with text-books and the content of the course all laid down. In such cases, we are not dealing with true catechesis nor with books that can be used as catechisms. But such teaching, when it presents elements of Christian doctrine loyally, has authentic ecumenical value. In these cases, while appreciating the potential value of such teaching, it still remains indispensable to provide a specifically Catholic catechesis for Catholic children.
190. When the teaching of religion in schools is done in collaboration with members of religions other than Christian, a special effort should be made to ensure that the Christian message is presented in a way that highlights the unity of faith that exists between Christians about fundamental matters, while at the same time explaining the divisions that do exist and the steps that are being taken to overcome them.
Cooperation in Institutes of Higher Studies
191. There are many opportunities for ecumenical cooperation and common witness in the scientific study of theology and the branches of learning associated with it. Such cooperation contributes to theological research. It improves the quality of theological education by helping teachers to provide that attention to the ecumenical aspect of theological issues that is required in the Catholic Church by the conciliar decree Unitatis Redintegratio.176 It facilitates the ecumenical formation of pastoral agents (see above chapter III). It helps Christians to address together the great intellectual issues that face men and women today from a shared fund of Christian wisdom and expertise. Instead of accentuating their difference they are able to give due preference to the profound harmony of faith and understanding that can exist within the diversity of their theological expressions.
In Seminaries and Undergraduate Studies.
192. Ecumenical cooperation in study and teaching is already desirable in programmes of the first stages of theological education, such as are given in seminaries and in first cycles of theological faculties. This cannot yet be done in the same way as is possible at the level of research and among those who have already completed their basic theological formation. An elementary requirement for ecumenical cooperation at those higher levels—to be dealt with in nn. 196-203 -, is that the participants be well formed in their faith and in the tradition of their own Church. Theological education in seminaries and first-cycle courses is directed to giving students this basic formation. The Catholic Church, like other Churches and ecclesial Communities, plans the programmes and courses that it considers appropriate for this purpose and selects suitably qualified directors and professors. The rule is that professors of the doctrinal courses should be Catholics. Thus the elementary principles of initiation into ecumenism and ecumenical theology, which is a necessary part of basic theological formation, are given by Catholic teachers.177 Once these fundamental concerns of the Church about the purpose, values and requirements of initial theological training—which are understood and shared by many other Churches and ecclesial Communities—are respected, students and teachers from Catholic seminaries and theological faculties can cooperate ecumenically in various ways.
193. The norms for promoting and regulating cooperation between Catholics and other Christians at the level of seminary and first cycle theological studies are to be determined by Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences, particularly in so far as they affect the education of candidates for ordination. The appropriate ecumenical commission should be heard on the subject. The relevant guidelines should be included in the Programme of Training for Priesthood that is drawn up in accordance with the Decree on the Training of Priests Optatam Totius. Since institutes for training members of religious orders may also be involved in this kind of ecumenical cooperation in theological education, major superiors or their delegates should contribute towards drawing up rules, in keeping with the Conciliar Decree Christus Dominus.178
194. Catholic students may attend special courses given at institutes, including seminaries, of Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, in accordance with the general criteria for the ecumenical formation of Catholic students, and subject to any norms that may have been laid down by the Synod of Eastern Catholic Churches or the Episcopal Conference. When a decision has to be taken about whether or not they should actually attend special courses, attention will be paid to the usefulness of the course in the general context of their training, the quality and ecumenical attitude of the professor, the level of previous preparation of the pupils themselves, as well as their spiritual and psychological maturity. The more closely the lectures or courses bear on doctrinal subjects, the more care will be needed in coming to a decision regarding the participation of the students. The formation of students and the development of their ecumenical sense is to be undertaken by a gradual process.
195. In the second and third cycles of faculties and in seminaries after the students have received basic formation, professors from other Churches and ecclesial Communities may be invited to give lectures on the doctrinal positions of the Churches and Communities they represent, in order to complete the ecumenical formation the students are already receiving from their Catholic professors. Such professors may also provide courses of a technical nature, as for example, language courses, instruction on communication media, religious sociology, etc. In laying down norms to regulate this matter, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences will bear in mind the degree of development reached by the ecumenical movement in their country and the state of relationship between Catholics and other Churches and ecclesial Communities.179 They will specifically determine how Catholic criteria concerning the qualifications of professors, the period of their teaching and their accountability for the content of courses 180 are to be applied in their region. They will also give directives about how the teaching received by Catholic students in such lectures can be integrated into their complete programme. Professors so invited will be classified as “visiting lecturers”. When necessary, Catholic institutions will organize seminars or courses to put into context the teaching given by lecturers from other Churches and ecclesial Communities. Catholic professors invited to lecture in corresponding circumstances in the seminaries and theological schools of other Churches and ecclesial Communities will gladly do so under the same conditions. Such an exchange of professors, that respects the concerns of each Church and ecclesial Community for the basic theological formation of its members, and especially of those who are called to be its ministers, is an effective form of ecumenical collaboration and gives an appropriate witness to Christian concern for sound teaching in the Church of Christ.
In Theological Research and Post-Graduate Studies.
196. A wider field of ecumenical collaboration is open to those who are engaged in theological research and teaching on a post-graduate level than is possible on the level of seminary or undergraduate (institutional) teaching. The maturity of the participants (research workers, professors, students) and the advanced levels of study already attained in the faith and theology of their own Church brings a special security and richness to their cooperation, such as could not be expected from those who are still engaged in undergraduate or seminary formation.
197. Cooperation in higher studies is practised by experts who consult and share their research with experts from other Churches and ecclesial Communities. It is practised by ecumenical groups and associations of experts set up for the purpose. It is to be found in a special way within various forms of relationships that are entered into between institutions for the study of theology that belong to different Churches and ecclesial Communities. Such relationships and the cooperation they facilitate can help to give an ecumenical character to all the work of the participating institutions. They can provide for a sharing of personnel, library, courses, premises and other resources, to the considerable advantage of researchers, professors and students.
198. Ecumenical cooperation is particularly indicated in the interest of those institutes that are set up within existing faculties of theology for research and specialized formation in ecumenical theology or for the pastoral practice of ecumenism; it can similarly benefit those independent institutes that are set up for the same purpose. Although these latter may belong to particular Churches or ecclesial Communities, they will be more effective when they cooperate actively with similar institutes that belong to other Churches. It may be useful from an ecumenical point of view if such institutes have members of other Churches and ecclesial Communities on their staff and in their student body.
199. The setting up and administration of institutions and structures for ecumenical collaboration in the study of theology should normally be entrusted to those who conduct the institutions involved, and to those who work within them in a spirit of legitimate academic freedom. Their ecumenical effectiveness requires that they operate in close relationship with the authorities of the Churches and ecclesial Communities to which their members belong. When the institute involved in such cooperative structures is part of a faculty of theology that already belongs to the Catholic Church, or is set up by it as a separate institution under its authority, its relationship to Church authorities in ecumenical activity will be defined in the articles of agreement on cooperation.
200. Interconfessional institutes, set up and administered jointly by several Churches and ecclesial Communities, are especially effective in dealing with topics of common concern to all Christians. Joint study of certain questions will indeed contribute to the solution of problems and to the approval of suitable policies, thus contributing to the advancement of Christian unity. Among such questions the following may be mentioned: mission work, relations with nonChristian religions, atheism and unbelief, the use of social communications media, architecture and sacred art, theological subjects as the explanation of Holy Scripture, salvation history and pastoral theology. The responsibility of such institutes towards the authorities of the Churches and ecclesial Communities concerned is to be defined clearly in their statutes.
201. Associations or institutes may be set up for the joint study of theological and pastoral questions by ministers of different Churches and ecclesial Communities. Under the guidance and with the help of experts in various fields, these ministers discuss and analyse together the theoretical and practical aspects of their ministry within their own Communities, in its ecumenical dimensions and in its contribution to common Christian witness.
202. The field of study and research in institutes for ecumenical activity and cooperation can cover the whole ecumenical reality, or it can be limited to particular questions that are studied in depth. When institutes specialize in the study of one area of ecumenism (the Orthodox tradition, Protestantism, the Anglican Communion, as well as the kind of questions mentioned in n. 200), it is important that they should deal with that study within the context of the whole ecumenical movement and all the other questions that are connected with the subject under consideration.
203. Catholic institutions are encouraged to become members of ecumenical associations designed to promote improvement in the standard of theological education, better training of those intended for pastoral ministry and better cooperation between institutions for advanced learning. They will be also open to proposals that are being put forward with increasing frequency today by the authorities of public and non-denominational universities to bring together for the study of religion different institutes that are connected with them. Membership of such ecumenical associations and participation in the teaching of associated institutes must respect the legitimate autonomy of Catholic institutes in matters of the programme of studies, of the doctrinal content of subjects to be taught, and of the spiritual and priestly training of students destined for ordination.
Pastoral Cooperation in Special Situations
204. While each Church and ecclesial Community takes pastoral care of its own members and is built up in an irreplaceable way by the ministers of its local communities, there are certain situations in which the religious need of Christian people may well be served more effectively when pastoral agents, ordained or lay, from different Churches and ecclesial Communities work together. This kind of ecumenical collaboration can be practised with success in the pastoral care of those who are in hospitals, prisons, the armed forces, universities, and large industrial complexes. It is also effective in bringing a Christian presence into the world of the social communications media. Care should be taken to coordinate these special ecumenical ministries with the local pastoral structures of each Church. That will be more readily achieved when those structures are themselves imbued with the ecumenical spirit and practise ecumenical cooperation with corresponding local units of other Churches or ecclesial Communities. Liturgical ministry, especially that of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments, is provided in such cooperative situations according to the norms that each Church or ecclesial Community lays down for its own members, which for Catholics are those stated in chapter IV of this Directory.
Cooperation in Missionary Activity
205. The common witness given by all forms of ecumenical cooperation is already missionary. The ecumenical movement has, in fact, gone hand in hand with a new discovery by many communities of the missionary nature of the Church.
Ecumenical cooperation shows to the world that those who believe in Christ and live by his Spirit, being thus made children of God who is Father of all, can set about over coming human divisions, even about such sensitive matters as religious faith and practice, with courage and hope. The divisions that exist among Christians are certainly a major obstacle to the successful preaching of the Gospel.181 But the efforts being made to overcome them do much to offset the scandal and to give credibility to Christians who proclaim that Christ is the one in whom all things and people are gathered together into unity:
“As evangelizers we must offer Christ’s faithful not the image of 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. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church. This is a source of responsibility and also of comfort”.182
206. Ecumenical witness can be given in missionary activity itself. For Catholics, the basis for ecumenical cooperation with other Christians in mission is “the foundation of baptism and the patrimony of faith which is common to us”.183 Other Churches and ecclesial Communities which draw people to faith in Christ the Saviour and to baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit draw them into the real though imperfect communion that exists between them and the Catholic Church. Catholics would want all who are called to Christian faith to join with them in that fullness of communion they believe to exist in the Catholic Church, yet they recognize that in the Providence of God some will live out their Christian lives in Churches and ecclesial Communities that do not provide such full communion. They should be careful to respect the lively faith of other Churches and ecclesial Communities which preach the Gospel, and rejoice in the grace of God that is at work among them.
207. Catholics can join with other Churches and ecclesial Communities —provided there is nothing sectarian or deliberately anti-Catholic about their work of evangelization—in organizations and programmes that give common support to the missionary activities of all the participating Churches. A special subject of such cooperation will be to ensure that the human, cultural and political factors that were involved in the original divisions between the Churches, and have marked the historical tradition of separation, will not be transplanted into areas where the Gospel is being preached and Churches are being founded. Those who have been sent by missionary institutes to help in the foundation and growth of new Churches, will be especially sensitive to this need. Bishops will give special attention to it. It is for the Bishop to determine when it becomes necessary to insist in a special way on points of doctrine and morality about which Catholics differ from other Churches and ecclesial Communities. These latter may find it necessary to do the same in relation to Catholicism. But all this must be done, not in a contentious or sectarian spirit, but with mutual respect and love.184 New converts to the faith should be carefully nourished in the ecumenical spirit, “so that, while avoiding every form of indifferentism or confusion and also senseless rivalry, Catholics might collaborate with their separated brethren, insofar as it is possible, by a common profession before the nations of faith in God and in Jesus Christ, and by a common, fraternal effort in social, cultural, technical and religious matters”.185
208. Ecumenical cooperation is particularly necessary in the mission to the de-Christianized masses of our contemporary world. The ability of Christians, though still divided, to bear common witness, even now, to central truths of the Gospel 186 can be a powerful invitation to a renewed appreciation of Christian faith in a secularized society. A common evaluation of the forms of atheism, secularization and materialism that are at work in the world of today, and a shared strategy to deal with them would greatly benefit the Christian mission to the contemporary world.
209. There should be a special place for cooperation between members of the different Churches and ecclesial Communities in the reflection constantly needed on the meaning of Christian mission, on the manner of engaging in the dialogue of salvation with the members of other religions and on the general question of the relationship between the preaching of the Gospel of Christ and the cultures and way of thinking of the contemporary world.
Ecumenical Cooperation in the Dialogue with Other Religions
210. There are increasing contacts in today’s world between Christians and persons of other religions. These contacts differ radically from the contacts between the Churches and ecclesial Communities, which have for their object the restoration of the unity Christ willed among all his disciples and are properly called ecumenical. But in practice they are deeply influenced by, and in turn influence ecumenical relationships. Through them Christians can deepen the level of communion existing among themselves, and so they are to be considered an important part of ecumenical cooperation. This is particularly true for all that is done to develop the specially privileged religious relationship that Christians have with the Jewish people.
For Catholics, directives about relationships with the Jewish people are guided by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Relations with the members of other religions are guided by the Pontifical Council for Inter- Religious Dialogue. In working out religious relationships with Jews and in their relations with members of other religions, in accordance with appropriate directives, Catholics can find many opportunities for collaboration with members of other Churches and ecclesial Communities. There are many areas where Christians can work together in fostering dialogue and common action with the Jews, as for example in struggling together against anti-Semitism, religious fanaticism and sectarianism. Collaboration with other believers can take place in promoting religious perspectives on issues of justice and peace, support for family life, respect for minority communities, and such cooperation can also address the many new questions of the present age. In these interreligious contacts, Christians can appeal together to their common biblical and theological sources, thereby bringing Christian insights to this broader context, in a way that fosters Christian unity as well.
Ecumenical Cooperation in Social and Cultural Life
211. The Catholic Church considers ecumenical collaboration in social and cultural life to be an important aspect of working towards unity. The Decree on Ecumenism sees such cooperation as a clear expression of the bond that unites all the baptized.187 For this reason, it encourages and supports very concrete forms of collaboration:
“Such cooperation which has already begun in many countries, should be ever increasingly developed, particularly in regions where a social and technical evolution is taking place. It should contribute to a just appreciation of the dignity of the human person, the promotion of the blessings of peace, the application of Gospel principles to social life, and advancement of the arts and science in a Christian spirit. Christians should also work together in the use of every possible means to relieve the afflictions of our times such as famine and national disasters, illiteracy and poverty, lack of housing, and the unequal distribution of wealth”.188
212. As a general principle, ecumenical collaboration in the social and cultural life ought to be carried out within the overall context of the search for Christian unity. When it is not accompanied by other forms of ecumenism, especially by prayer and spiritual sharing, it can easily be confused with ideological and merely political interests and thus become an obstacle to the progress toward unity. Like all forms of ecumenism, it should be carried out under the supervision of the local Ordinary, the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
213. Through such cooperation, all believers in Christ are able to learn easily how they can understand each other better and esteem each other more, and so prepare the way for the unity of Christians.189 On a number of occasions, Pope John Paul II has affirmed the commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenical collaboration.190 The same affirmation was expressed in the common declaration between Cardinal Johannes Willebrands and Dr. Philip Potter, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, on the occasion of the Holy Father’s visit to the World Council of Churches’ headquarters in Geneva in 1984.191 It is in view of this that the Ecumenical Directory offers some examples of collaboration at various levels without these pretending to be exhaustive in any way.192
a) Cooperation in common studies of social and ethical questions
214. Regional or national Episcopal Conferences, in collaboration with other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as with Councils of Churches, could set up groups to give common expression to basic Christian and human values.
This kind of shared discernment will help to provide a significant starting point for an ecumenical address to questions of a social and ethical nature; it will open up the moral and social dimension of the partial communion that Christians of different Churches and ecclesial Communities already enjoy.
The purpose of a common study of this kind is the promotion of a Christian culture, a “civilization of love”—the Christian humanism often spoken of by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. To construct this culture, we must clearly establish the values that form part of it as well as the things that threaten it. Clearly, therefore, the study will involve for example a Christian appreciation of the value of life, the meaning of human work, questions of justice and peace, religious liberty, human rights and land rights. It will likewise focus on the factors in society that threaten basic values, such as poverty, racism, consumerism, terrorism, and indeed all that threatens human life at whatever stage of its development. The long tradition of Catholic social teaching will provide considerable guidance and inspiration for this kind of collaboration.
b) Cooperation in the field of development, human need and stewardship of creation
215. There is an intrinsic connection between development, human need and the stewardship of creation. For experience has taught us that development in response to human needs cannot misuse or overuse natural resources without serious consequences.
The responsibility for the care of creation, which in itself has a particular dignity, is given by the Creator himself to all people, in so far as they are to be stewards of creation.193 Catholics are encouraged to enter, at various levels, into joint initiatives aimed at study and action on issues that threaten the dignity of creation and endanger the whole human race. Other topics for such study and action could include, for example, certain forms of uncontrolled rapid industrialization and technology that cause pollution of the natural environment with se- rious consequences to the ecological balance, such as destruction of forests, nuclear testing and the irrational use or misuse of both renewable and unrenewable natural resources. An important aspect of joint action in this field is in the area of education of people in the use of resources as well as in the planned use of them and in the care of creation.
The field of development, which is basically a response to human needs, offers a variety of possibilities for collaboration between the Catholic Church and Churches and ecclesial Communities at regional, national and local levels. Such collaboration would include, among other things, working for a more just society, for peace, for promotion of the rights and dignity of women, and for a more equitable distribution of resources. In this sense, it would be possible to provide joint services for the poor, the sick, the handicapped, the aged and all who suffer because of unjust “structures of sin”.194 Cooperation in this field is encouraged particularly in places where there is high concentration of population with serious consequences for housing, food, water, clothing, sanitation and medical care. An important aspect of collaboration in this field would be in dealing with the problem of migrants, refugees, and victims of natural catastrophes. In the event of world emergencies, the Catholic Church encourages the pooling of resources and services with the international organizations of Churches and ecclesial Communities, for reasons of efficiency and to reduce costs. It likewise encourages ecumenical collaboration with international organizations that specialize in these concerns.
c) Cooperation in the field of medicine
216. The whole area of health care constitutes a very important challenge for ecumenical collaboration. In some countries ecumenical collaboration by the Churches in health care programmes is vital if adequate health care is to be provided. Increasingly, moreover, collaboration in this whole area, be it at the level of research, or at the level of practical health care, raises questions of medical ethics which are both a challenge and an opportunity for ecumenical collaboration. The task mentioned earlier of identifying basic values that are integral to Christian life is especially urgent, given the rapid developments in areas such as genetics. In this context, the indications of the 1975 document on ecumenical collaboration 195 are especially pertinent: “Particularly where ethical norms are concerned, the doctrinal stand of the Catholic Church has to be made clear and the difficulties which this can raise for ecumenical collaboration faced honestly and with loyalty to Catholic teaching”.
d) Cooperation in Social Communications Media
217. It is possible to cooperate in this matter, in understanding the nature of modern media and particularly the challenges it offers to Christians today. Collaboration in this area could include ways of infusing Christian principles into communications media and study of problems encountered in this field, as well as education of the people on critical use of the media. Interconfessional groups can be especially effective as advisory bodies to the secular media, particularly as to the way in which they deal with religious affairs. This can be particularly useful in countries where the majority of viewers, listeners, or readers are from one particular Church or ecclesial Community. “There is almost no end to the opportunities for such collaboration. Some are obvious: joint programmes on radio and television; educational projects and services, especially for parents and young people; meetings and discussions between professionals on an international level; recognition of achievement in these fields by annual awards; cooperation in research in the media field and especially in professional training and education”.196 Where interconfessional structures with full Catholic participation already exist, they should be strengthened, particularly for the use of radio and television, and for publishing and audio-visual work. At the same time, each participating body should be given the opportunity to enunciate its own doctrine and practice.197
218. It would be important at times to work in mutual cooperation; either by having Catholic communicators take part in the initiatives of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, or by having communicators from these latter to participate in Catholic initiatives. Ecumenical collaboration could include exchanges between International Catholic Organizations and the communications organizations of other Churches and ecclesial Communities (as, for example, in keeping the World Day for Social Communications). The common use of satellites and cable television networks offers practical opportunities for ecumenical collaboration.198 Clearly, at the regional level, this kind of collaboration should take place with reference to ecumenical commissions and, internationally, with reference to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The formation of Catholic communicators should include a serious ecumenical preparation.
On March 25th, 1993, His Holiness Pope John Paul II approved this Directory, confirmed it by his authority and ordered that it be published. Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
March 25th, 1993
Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy
+ Pierre Duprey
Tit. Bishop of Thibar