Council for Christian Unity marks half century of ecumenism

2014-11-19 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) On Tuesday the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity begins a four day plenary session which will include an ecumenical celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’.  To celebrate the progress of the past half century, participants will attend ecumenical Vespers at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls on Thursday and a public commemorative session at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Friday morning.

The decree, published on November 21st 1964 marked a major change in the Catholic Church’s relations with other Christians and led to the establishment of many different dialogue groups to try and overcome the deep divisions between the different Churches and communities. To find out more about this important celebration, Philippa Hitchen spoke with the president of the Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch….

Listen: 

The Cardinal says the decree Unitatis Redintegratio marks the opening of a new way of doing ecumenism in the Catholic Church, entering officially into the wider ecumenical movement, therefore it's very important to reflect on this event and to consider anew the goals of ecumenism, as well as the different dialogues and opportunities of the past 50 years....

The decree, he explains, has three parts: the first outlines the Catholic princicples which are still very important for Catholics today, The second part talks about the practise of ecumenism, about the dialogue of truth and the dialogue of love, with spiritual ecumenism as the basis or the soul of all ecumenical engagement. The third section examines the two main splits in the Church, between East and West in the 11th century and within the Western Church in the 16th century and the different ways of resolving these problems. It's a beautiful document, he says, which is still very relevant to us today...

Asked about Pope Francis' recenet comments to a group of Evangelical leaders about not waiting for theologians to reach agreement on the issues dividing the Churches, Cardinal Koch says since the beginning there has always been a distinction between dialogue of love and dialogue of truth. Pope Francis wants to deepen the friendship and brotherhood with Evangelical groups and to seek new ways forward for a common evangelisation and a common witness....in this sense therefore, we cannot wait for theologians to finish their work but we must cooperate together now on crucial problems facing the Church and the world...

Asked what he sees as the most important signs of hope today, the Cardinal says the greatest challenge today is the lack of a common vision about the goals of the ecumenical movement......but the most hopeful sign, he says, is that today the ecumenical movement is really present in all our Churches and this is "a beautiful gift"....

(from Vatican Radio)