I just read an interview about ecumenism between Catholics and Protestants in Germany, with Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer (Catholic) and Martin Hein, bishop of Kurhessen-Waldeck (Evangelical). In this interview, they discuss how ecumenical dialogue has worked out between the two parties and what future they see for it.
Among the things talked about were the current situation, the accomplishments of recent years and the most pressing issues for the future. The two representatives observed that considerable headway had been made with the joint declaration on Justification and a few other documents.
Asked by the interviewer, who is of the Bishops’ Conference’s news site, whether they thought that shared Communion would be possible by 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Bishop stated that he did not believe this was possible:
“I cannot see a breakthrough being immanent. For the Catholic Church, as for the Orthodox Church, it’s not about excluding other people or groups from Communion. Rather, the Eucharist has a Church-building element to it, which is why Eucharistic and Ecclesiastical Communion are inseparable. For exactly that painful situation’s reason …] we must not stop striving for visible unity of the Church, to be able to celebrate our Faith in the One Lord at one table.”
The Evangelical minister responded:
“From an Evangelical perspective, there is no obstacle. But I do not expect it to happen. Still: Miracles are not impossible, certainly not where ecumenism is concerned!”
Concerning issues they thought needed to be addressed, the Catholic Bishop said:
As important as the theological questions of Church, Office and Eucharist are: We cannot pretend the future of our churches is decided by these issues. Rather, it depends on whether we can go out of ourselves, be missionaries and work to shape society.
The Evangelical side said:
Ecumenical enthusiasm dies when we discuss the same issues, like that of Office, over and over again to no avail. It is time to ask each other honestly and come to an agreement about where we want to be in ten years from now, and what we want to have accomplished by then. We need a clear vision of the future and we must take the open horizon of worldwide ecumenism into focus a lot more.
The interviewer asked about what the two thought of the fact that some people speak of an “Ice age” in ecumenism. While the Catholic Bishop said he didn’t think such a term was appropriate in any way, the Evangelical bishop replied somewhat more critically:
During Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontificate there was undeniably a general hardening. In summary, those years were lost ones for ecumenism between Roman Catholic and Evangelical Christendom. But to call that an “ice age” is not appropriate. Ecumenism is more than a meeting of representatives. It grows from the People of God, and there we have a lot of warmth!
First, I invite comments on these statements.
Second, my question is: Does anyone think Inter-Communion will come some day?