Ecumenism Operational at Parish Levels

In most parts of the world, ecumenical dialogue and cooperation are a reality even at the parish level, although suspicion among Christians has not disappeared everywhere, said the Vatican’s top ecumenists.

Cardinal Walter Kasper and Bishop Brian Farrell, respectively, the president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote about the state of Catholic ecumenical efforts in the Jan. 17-18 edition of the Vatican newspaper.

In the newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Kasper said the church had reached an “intermediate stage” in which most Catholics are aware of and share the church’s commitment to Christian unity, but sometimes they are impatient with the progress made.

In most countries, he said, “ecumenical coexistence and cooperation belong to the daily church life of parishes and dioceses.”

However, the cardinal wrote, “ancient prejudices” based on past errors continue to block progress in some areas.

Among the new challenges to ecumenism, Cardinal Kasper listed “relativism and postmodern qualitative pluralism,” which are content to accept things without questioning whether they conform to the Gospel, and the problem of “an aggressive fundamentalism” on the part of Christian sects.

In addition, he cited “a sort of doctrinal and, especially, ethical liberalism that creates new dissension both within some communities as well as between them and the Catholic Church.”

Although the cardinal did not provide specific examples, the decision of some members of the Anglican Communion to ordain openly gay clergy and to bless homosexual unions has created tension within the Anglican Communion and has posed difficulties for the Roman Catholic-Anglican dialogue.

“True ecumenism is ecumenism in charity and in truth,” Cardinal Kasper wrote.

Christian unity is not a social goal, but a religious one, he said, and it must be based on “the profession of the triune God and of Jesus Christ as the only savior and redeemer, united with a commitment to live according to God’s commandments and the spirit of the Gospel.”

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