Christian ecumenism embraces all those efforts the separated Christian Ourches make to heal the scandal of division in the Body of Christ by coming together Into one visible Church. The momentous event of Vatican II–called to renew the Roman Catholic Church and to restore unity among the Christian churches–has irreversibly recast the relationship between the Ronan Catholic Church and the other Christian churches and has established an imperative *for ecumenical commitment by all Catholics, clergy and laity alike.
Christian ecumenism is urgently needed today because 1) Jesus Christ desires the unity of his followers; he prayed “that all may be one so that the world maybe-
lieve”; 2) Jesus founded one Church on the Apostles; disunity distorts the words of the Creed, “We believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic church”; 3) Christian disunity seriously hinders proclaiming the Gospel and the evangelization of the human race;
4) a united, Christendom could become a powerful force to Christianize today’s secularistic society and to overcome poverty and hunger, racial and social injustice, alienation and var.
Accordingly, the Decree on Ecumenism stresses that “concern for restoring unity pertains to the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike” (No. 5). It urges us to “acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments…found among our separated Christian brethren” (No. 4) and to “know the outlook of our separated brethren” ‘through study of “their history, their spiritual and liturgical life, their religious psycho-.logy and general background” (No. 9). It cautions us to “avoid expressions, judgments, and actions which do not represent our separated brethren with truth and fairness”
(No, )and to be more humble about our own church since “Christ summons the Church to continual reformation” (No. ). And it reminds us that we may need to change our own attitudes for “there can be no ecumenism…without a change of heart”. (No. 7).
Theological Reflections #
The ultimate purpose of Christian ecumenism is “full visible union” between the presently separated Chralan churches so that the world may accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that Christian ecumenism is primarily an ecclesial reality, peeking to unite churches, rather than merely individual Christians.
The following theological realities are meant to be principleson which the Arch-diocesan guidelines are based and out of which ecumenical activity in the Archdiocese may flow.
- The recognition that all Christiana already possess a fundamental unity by their faith in the mystery of Christ and their incorporation into Rim through baptism.
- The new appreciation of the ecclesial reality of other Christian churches with not yet realized consequences for ministry, eucharist, common mission, shared prayer;
- The awareness that the model for Christian union has changed from simple “return and submission” to the RCC to an earlier communion model that recognizes authentic plurality in liturgy, theology, discipline, devotional tradition, and church structure;
- The conviction that doctrinal agreement on the core of Christian truths is prior and essential to structural union has resulted in the RCC choosing formal dialogue between churches as its present major commitment to and expression of ecumenism.
- The recovery of emphasis on the local church emphasizes the urgency of ecumenical understanding and commitment by clergy and laity alike at the grassroots, i.e., the diocese and parish;
- The realization of the essential relation between a church’s profound spiritual renewal and the goal of a united Christendom makes prayer, humility, openness to the Spirit, and the overcoming of inherited prejudice and ignorance indispensable conditions for both renewal and unity;
T. The trusting acceptance of the cardinal ecumenical principle that the effort toward Christian unity is best served by each church honestly recognizing real existing differences and remaining true to its own tradition and present discipline.
Purpose of the Guidelines #
Accordingly, these guidelines are offered to help the People of God in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, both clergy and laity, respond to the challenge of the Holy Spirit and of the Church in regard to the responsibility and privilege of attaining Christian union in this century. Specifically, the guidelines seek:
- To provide both an educative and motivational factor for the progress of ecumenism in the Archdiocese;
- To aid Catholics in greater sharing of their common heritage with other Christians through prayer, the Word of God, and worship;
- To clarify the norms for Roman Catholic ecumenical participation with our separated brothers and sisters.
Interreligious Guidelines #
Ecumenism today has broadened to include the efforts of the Christian Churches to understand and apptaeciate the major world religions and to enter into formal dialogue with them and to collaborate With them in caring for the great needs of humankind. Interreligious thus refers to our relationship as Christians with those who are not of the Christian tradition. These relationships are developed in Vatican II’s “Declaration on the RelationShip of the Church to non-Christian Religions” and in number sixteen in The Constitution on the Church where Jews and Moslems are spoken of with appreciation. Part II of these guidelines accordingly deals with reasons and norms for interreligious activities in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Part..I. Guidelines for Christian Ecumenism
Chapter 1: Prayer and Education for Christian Unity
- The sotl of the whole ecumenical movement is public and private prayer for the unity of Christ’s Church. (Decree on Ecumenism, Number 8).
- Pastors and priests, as leaders of the local worshipping communities, should encourage their congregations to pray for Christian unity.
- Prayers for Church unity should be included frequently in our Masses, and in other prayer services, such as Bible Vigils, Scripture services, Lenten devotions, retreats, novenas, etc. in order to beg the gift of unity from G