The church is ecumenical in nature


“One of the benefits of religion is unity. Communal practice of religion in a place of worship brings people together and enables them to interact and communicate. Thus, religion helps to build unity and social stability”, observes Émile Durkheim, a French sociologist.
October 11, 2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII. One of the main objectives of the Council was the restoration of visible unity among Christians – ecumenism. Over 100 observer delegates or ecumenical guests from other churches attended.

According to the Catholic Church, a Church Council is ecumenical (“worldwide”), if it is “a solemn congregation of the Catholic bishops of the world at the invitation of the Pope to decide with him the affairs of the Church. Pope Pius IX invited non-Catholics to attend Vatican Council I (1869-1870), to abandon their errors and embrace the Catholic faith, but Vatican II emphasized ecumenism as religious communion.
During the council, a Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, later named Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), was created as one of the organs of the Catholic Church. Its aim was to restore unity between Christians and interreligious dialogue with non-Christian religions, by engaging in timely ecumenical initiatives and activities, both within the Catholic Church and in relations with other Churches and ecclesial communities.

Long before Vatican II, a Protestant movement towards Christian unity had been founded by the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in 1910. In 1948, another inter-church Christian organization, called the World Council of Churches (WCC), was founded to work for the cause. of ecumenism. The PCPCU is committed to the WCC.
In January 1965, a joint task force between the Catholic Church and the WCC was formed and continued to work for the benefit of the work of Christian unity. There is the joint preparation of the texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, fruitful collaboration within the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism and the office for interreligious dialogue and cooperation.

A theological commission, made up of Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Catholic theologians, was set up to deal with doctrinal differences. Topics include Sacred Scripture and Tradition, Apostolic Faith, Anthropology, Youth, Hermeneutics, Reconciliation, Peace, Migrants and Refugees, Preservation of Creation, and Visible Unity.
The Catholic Church, however, does not seek membership in the WCC, partly because of disparities in its structure and size, and partly because of its theological conception of itself as a universal community endowed with a universal mission and structure. In this perspective, the Bishop of Rome cannot be considered as a head of the Church among many others, but as the point of reference for the unity of all the baptized. At the 2022 Lambeth Conference, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury said the majority of Church of England members recognize the pope as “the father of the Church in the West”.

Particular moments in the history of relations between the Catholic Church and the WCC include the visits of Popes Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Center in Geneva. On June 21, 2018, Pope Francis visited the Center to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the WCC, a visit he called an “ecumenical pilgrimage.” Reflecting on the theme of the celebrations: “Walking, praying, working together,” the Pope encouraged all Christians to “pray, evangelize and serve together.

Commenting on the 60th anniversary, PCPCU member Fr. Avelino González-Ferrer says the Christian community has moved “from conflict to communion.” “There is a cleansing of memory in coming together to hear each other’s different perspectives and that cleansing of memory leads to reconciliation and that reconciliation is the bridge to unity. This is what the Gospel teaches us. But he also comments that the vision of visible communion seems elusive.
In his encyclical Ut unum sint (so that they may be one), Saint John Paul II says that the Catholic Church is ecumenical in nature. Saint Paul in Ephesians 4:3-6 points out that ecumenism is based on the Trinity. We continue to pray with Jesus for the unity of His Church (John 17:21-23).
Msgr. John Wynand Katende, [email protected]


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