Since the origins of Christianity, differences have prevailed among its followers in the dispute for power and have ended in schisms, which is the separation of some groups. Ecumenism is a movement that studies these historical divisions within Christianity and seeks the union of all who believe in Christ. Find out much more below.
Ecumenism is known as the inclination or current that seeks to change the union between Christians, that is, the alliance of the different “historical” Christian religious manifestations, whose separation took place when the great schisms occurred.
It is used to refer to the currents that exist within Christianity whose purpose is the union of the various Christian confessions that were separated due to doctrinal, historical, tradition or practice differences.
Ecumenism is not the same as interreligious dialogue, since the latter refers to the search for cooperation between different religions, be they those of Abrahamic origin such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam or others. Many Christian figures of the last century have felt that ecumenism is the means to resolve divisions among Christians, to fulfill the Christian mandate: “[…] that they may all be one […]” (John 17, 21).
In the advancement of ecumenical awareness there are numerous relevant personalities who have had or have great influence. Among them we can mention Robert Gardiner, the theologian Yves Congar, Brother Roger Schutz (who founded the Ecumenical Community of Taizé), Chiara Lubich (founder of the Focolare Movement), Patriarch Athenagoras I, Popes John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II, and the prelate of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Origin of the Term “Ecumenism”
The term “ecumenism” comes from the Latin, “œcumenicus” and the Greek, “οἰκουμενικός” (oikoumenikós) and the latter from “οἰκουμένη” (oikoumenē), meaning “site or land inhabited as a whole”. It was used since the time of the Roman Empire to refer to the total of the conquered lands, although in the literature of that time it had a political-imperial meaning that went beyond the geographical sense: symbolizing “the world as an administrative unit, the Roman Empire”. Today it has an essentially religious meaning.
Use of the Term by Historians
The Romans are called “lords of the ‘oikoumenē'” (Plutarch, Tiberius Gracchus 9, 6). Polybius puts it this way: “every part of the populated world (“oikoumenē”) has come under Roman rule” (Polybius, Histories 3,1,4). In the same way it was used by Dion Casio (Roman History 37,1,2; 43,14,16; 43,21,2) and Flavio Josefo, among other authors. Flavius Josephus wrote down these words of King Agrippa: “In the world that can be inhabited (“oikoumenē”) all are Romans” (The War of the Jews 2, 388).
Use of the Term in the Gospels
In the gospels, the word “oikoumenē” was rarely used. For example, in Luke 2,1 it is indicated: “It happened that in those days an edict of Caesar Augustus was published ordering that the whole world be registered (“oikoumenē”)”. Likewise, the devil provokes Jesus by promising him “all the kingdoms of the earth (“oikoumenē”)” (Luke 4:5).
Use of the Term in Early Church History
The meaning of the term “oikoumenē” began to turn resolutely positive when Constantine I the Great convened the initial Ecumenical Council of Christians at Nicaea in 325, where the bishops of the entire “oikoumenē” participated. Thus, a link was created between the notion of the universality of the Church (that is, without exclusions) and the term “ecumenical” (“oikoumenē”).
Brief History of the Ecumenical Movement
Throughout history, the ecumenical trend has been marked by a variety of milestones, which we can clearly group into two major stages. Among the most relevant events are the following:
First Stage (1910-1937)
In 1908 the Church Unity Octave initiative was launched by a pair of American Episcopalians named Spencer Jones and Paul Watson. This had a great initial acceptance in the Anglican environment. Pastor Paul Watson’s conversion to Catholicism occurred nine months later.
In the hands of the Catholic leadership of that time, the octave quickly became an instrument of apostolate with the purpose of working for the conversion to Catholicism of those non-Catholic Christians as if it were a simple “return” to the arms of the Church. Catholic.
The Anglican Church abandoned the realization of that octave and more than ten years had to pass until, in 1921, Spencer Jones himself replaced it with the Church Unity Octave Council, with the intention of seeking the union between the Anglican and Catholic Churches.
In 1910, the World Missionary Conference took place in Edinburgh, which was considered the official starting point of the ecumenical trend. In said Conference a Continuation Committee was created from which the International Missionary Council would later emerge. Charles Brent made the proposal for the creation of the Fe y Constitución group, with Robert Gardiner as the person in charge, thus constituting a Continuation Committee for this project.
It was in 1914, when Robert Gardiner sent a letter in Latin inviting Cardinal Pietro Gasparri. Pope Benedict XV replied that he considered himself to be the origin and the reason for the unity of the Church.
For 1916, Pope Benedict XV through the Brief Romanorum Pontificum, conferred full indulgence to all those who, anywhere on earth, from January 18 (celebration of the Chair of Saint Peter) to January 16 (festivity of the Conversion of Saint Paul) pray for the alliance of the Church using a prayer spread in the United States and that was blessed by Pius X, having been authorized by the prelates of that country.
In the year 1918, the Lutheran Bishop Nathan Söderblom approached many Catholic clergymen to invite them to talk about peace. A meeting was held in Upsala, in the month of September. Gasparri did not take the matter seriously. By 1919, a delegation of Episcopalian prelates approached different European churches. Upon arrival in Rome they were received by Benedict XV, who pointed out that the only possible alliance was achieved by returning to the Catholic Church.
For the first time, Nathan Söderblom, in an open letter, recommended the formation of an Ecumenical Council of Churches (C.OE.E). It was in 1920, that the “Life and Action” Conference of Practical Catholicism took place. Representatives of the Orthodox hierarchy are present at it. A Continuation Commission of the World Missionary Conference is created in Geneva, to establish the foundations of the Faith and Order movement.
In the year 1921, the International Missionary Council was founded in London: Swedish Lutheran Prelates and letter of Practical Catholicism. That same year, the Mechelen Conversations between Catholic and Anglican religious began.
In 1925 the Conference of Practical Catholicism is held in Stockholm. An attack by Catholic Canon Charles Journeto against Practical Catholicism was reported in his book L’union des églises et le Chatolicsme pratique. There was a meeting in Stockholm of the Continuation Committee of the World Missionary Conference, to plan the First World Conference on Faith and Order.
In 1927, the First World Conference on Faith and Order took place in Lausanne and in 1928, Pope Pius XI published his encyclical Mortalium Animos, in which he spoke strongly of the first initiatives of the ecumenical current. In 1929, the first serious examination of the ecumenical work by Catholics took place, with the book by Max Pribilla sj: Um kirchliche Einheit, Stockholm, Lausanne, Rome. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Nathan Söderblom in 1930.
Second Stage (1938- )
This stage coincided with the history of the “World Council of Churches” (WCC). Its bylaws, provisionally established in Utrecht in 1938 because of World War II, were not adopted until the Amsterdam assembly in 1948. The council described itself not as a “super Church” or a “Church rather as a “collective of Churches that have recognized Christ as God and Savior”.
Since its creation, 7 general conclaves have taken place: Amsterdam (1948); Evanston (1954); New Delhi (1961); Uppsala (1968); Nairobi (1968); Vancouver (1983) and Canberra (1991). With regard to the Catholic Church, Pope John XXIII caused a change of direction with the formation of the “Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity”, a preparatory delegation to the Second Vatican Council that would later be given the name of Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
Cardinal Augustin Bea was appointed on June 6, 1960 by Pope John XXIII as the initial president of the newly created Secretariat. The Secretariat was part of the New Delhi Conference in 1961 and was in charge of drafting different outlines of key documents during the Second Vatican Council, among which the Unitatis redintegratio decree on ecumenism stands out.
Pope John XXIII’s commitment to ecumenism was expressed in the last words he spoke on his deathbed:
I commend my life for the Church, for the continuation of the Ecumenical Council, for world peace and for the Christian alliance… My presence in this world has come to an end, but Christ is alive and the Church must continue his work. Ut unum sint, ut unum sint.11
During the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church established a series of points that highlight the importance of ecumenism on the event’s agenda:
- Ecumenism must be promoted by the prelates (Decree Christus Dominus 16).
- Priests cannot forget their brothers who do not enjoy full ecclesiastical communion with Catholics (Decree Presbyterorum ordinis 9).
- The ecumenical spirit must be sown among initiates (Decree Ad gentes divinitus 15).
- Recognizing the signs of the times, Catholics are encouraged to actively engage in ecumenical work (Decree Unitatis redintegratio 4).
- Catholics, in their ecumenical task, must undoubtedly anguish for the brothers who have separated, imploring with them, sharing with them the things of the Church and anticipating their meeting (Decree Unitatis redintegratio 4).
- Catholics are required to joyfully admit and cherish the authentically Christian goods that come from the common patrimony, which are placed among the set apart brothers (Decree Unitatis redintegratio 4).
- The praxis of ecumenism must be based on:
- the reform of the Church as an increase in loyalty towards their preference, which includes biblical and liturgical movements, the preaching of the Divine Word, catechesis, the lay apostolate, matrimonial spirituality, etc. (Decree Unitatis redintegratio 6),
- internal conversion (op. cit., 7),
- everyone’s prayer for unity (op. cit., 8),
- the reciprocal understanding of the various Churches, with a better discernment of the doctrine, of the history, of the spiritual and cultural existence and of the religious psychology of the other faiths (op. cit., 9),
- ecumenist education (op. cit., 10), and
- an improvement in terms of the intensity and precision in the language with which the doctrine of faith is manifested (op. cit., 11), among other issues.
The new direction managed to deepen with Pope Paul VI, who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from January 4 to 6, 1964, in the trip that for the first time a Pope made around the world.
As a result of that historical approximation, in a joint statement released on December 7, 1965, Paul VI and Athenagoras I, spiritual leaders of the Catholic Christians, the former, and of the Orthodox, the latter, resolved “[…] to suppress from memory ecclesial the ruling of excommunication that had been decreed […]» during the celebration of the Eastern Schism or Great Schism of 1054.
In 1966, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Secretariat for Christian Unity (today the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) of the Catholic Church agreed to prepare a joint document for the Week of Prayer that is officiated annually. The first text was scheduled for 1968, since then they have been carried out every year.
On May 25, 1995, John Paul II published the encyclical letter Ut unum sint (from the Latin, May they be one), in which he urged the alliance of the Christian churches through brotherhood and solidarity for the benefit of humanity.
In his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente of November 10, 1994, which was addressed to the episcopate, the clergy and the devout due to the organization of the jubilee of the year 2000, John Paul II exhorted, to examine the course of the last ten centuries and stressed the lack of Christian unity among “the faults that demand a greater commitment to amendment and conversion”, at the same time that he classified it as “a critical inconvenience for evangelical witness in the world”.
On October 31, 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, a joint statement on the doctrine of justification was signed by Cardinal Edward Cassidy as a representative of the Catholic Church, and Bishop Christian Krause representing the Lutheran World Federation. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, who was involved in the Lutheran-Catholic ecumenical dialogue for nearly thirty years, made a key contribution to the preparation of this release.
Such document came to mean a transcendental step to resolve the divisions between both Christian confessions that had remained for 482 years, from that same date of the year 1517, in which the ninety were nailed to the gate of the castle church in Wittenberg, in Germany. and five theses of Martin Luther.
In 2004, the religious-ecumenical community of the Missionaries of Sacramental Love was founded, which was based on the formation of social projects that promote love and service, attending numerous solidarity tasks in the community, to which is added the presence of oratories that summon everyone to universal prayer and not to religious confrontation.
In February 2016, Pope Francis and Cyril I, Patriarch of Moscow and of all the Russias, signed a joint statement resulting from their approach to Cuba. In this historic meeting, the aforementioned leaders embraced after almost a thousand years of having separated their churches.
In April of that year Francis and the Patriarchs Bartholomew I and Jerome II of Athens, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, signed a joint ecumenical declaration to express their concern about the tragic condition of the many exiles, emigrants and applicants of asylum, who have arrived in Europe escaping from the existing conflicts in their countries of origin.
On October 31, 2016, on the occasion of his apostolic journey to Lund (Sweden) for the Lutheran-Catholic celebration for the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation undertaken by Martin Luther, Pope Francis was part of an ecumenical ritual and signed together with Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, a joint statement.
Personalities with Ecumenical Character
There is a whole cluster of recognized figures who stand out for their ecumenical nature and for their categorical contributions to ecumenism. Among the most outstanding can be named:
- the Archbishop of Upsala of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931).
- lay leader Robert Hallowell Gardiner (1882-1944).
- Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900).
- American John Raleigh Mott, recipient of the 1946 Nobel Peace Prize.
- the priest Paul Couturier (1881-1953), who inspired the so-called “spiritual ecumenism”.
- theologian Yves Congar (1904-1995).
- Pope John XXIII (1881-1963).
- Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople (1886-1972).
- Pope Paul VI (1897-1978).
- Brother Roger Schutz (1915-2005), creator of the Ecumenical Community of Taizé.
- Pope John Paul II (1920–2005).
- the Italian laywoman Chiara Lubich (1920-2008), founder of the Focolare Movement.
- the Archbishop Emeritus of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini (1927-2012).
- Argentine bishop Jorge Novak (1928-2001).
- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (1950- ).
- the Italian historian Andrea Riccardi (1950- ), creator of the Community of Sant’Egidio.
- Pope Francis (1936 – )
Ecumenism: Why, for what?
These words were uttered by Cardinal Bessarion in his dogmatic dissertation on the unity of the Church at the Council of Florence , at which a provisional union was reached between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. After more than five centuries these words are still truly sad. How to achieve unity among Christians who are still separated and even opposed?
On May 30, 1995, the presentation of the twelfth encyclical of the late Pope John Paul II, entitled “Ut unum sint” (“May they be one”), was made in the Vatican as well as in Madrid. It is the first time that an encyclical touches on the relevant and unavoidable theme of ecumenism. With his particular style, the Pope tells of the conditions and the procedure to be carried out to speed up the approximation process in which the churches are involved, which are concerned about the problem of their separation.
In his text, the Pope emphasizes the commitment that the Catholic Church acquired in the Second Vatican Council, to promote the ecumenical movement, with the idea of achieving unity: “Ecumenism, the current in favor of the alliance of Christians, does not it is just a simple ‘appendix’ added to the usual activity of the Church. In contrast, it is an organic part of their existence and their action and for this reason it must inspire them and act like the fruit of a tree that, healthy and fresh, grows until it reaches its full development”.
Ecumenism: One or Multiple?
Certainly there is but one single ecumenism. Ecumenism, by relying on the doctrinal base related to all Christians, seeks to shorten distances between the churches to achieve their unity. Regarding the method or procedure to achieve its purpose, it is common to each of the churches that are committed to this cause.
When the council fathers began to study the preparatory outline about the decree of ecumenism, this formulation was presented to them: “Principles of Catholic Ecumenism.”
One person, precisely the then archbishop of Zaragoza and later of Madrid, Casimiro Morcillo, made them realize that such a statement was incorrect. There should be no talk of Catholic ecumenism, as if it were opposed to Protestant or Orthodox ecumenism. Ecumenism must not be more than one. The most precise formulation would be to pronounce it: “Catholic Principles of Ecumenism”.
By modifying the placement of the adjective catholic, to refer to the principles on which the ecumenical work is based and not to ecumenism, as a methodology, a relevant step was taken on the path of understanding. It is true that the doctrinal foundations of the Catholic Church are different from those of other confessions. If they were the same, there would no longer be a need for the ecumenical work, since the alliance would have been ratified.
Although the doctrinal foundations are still discrepant, the method that all ecumenists must use, to end the differences, must be the same. Ecumenism is like a set of cards, the same for everyone, and that must be used by those who are stubborn in the difficult and holy game of recomposing unity. The same cards for everyone, if that wonderful game is to be truly fair.
Variety of Ecumenisms
While it is true that ecumenism is only one and is the same for those who are committed to it, the paths it follows, the tasks in which it is carried out, and the conditions of the people who promote it are multiple and diverse. That is why it is usual to speak of different ecumenisms. As Cardinal Congar would point out:
“Ecumenism is like a barrel organ with four keyboards and numerous registers. Ecumenism advances all of it with a sense of the future, towards the Kingdom, but retains its allusion to Scripture and custom, while reviewing our old quarrels taken from their roots. It focuses on the covenant of the Church and the covenant of humanity. It is theology and praxis, doctrinal and secular, spiritual and sociopolitical. Don’t limit your ambition…
There is no space to reflect on ecumenism without keeping in mind the tension between the personal and the institutional. History has taught us, however, that the priority falls initially on the individual, on the precursors of ecumenism, men with charisma and a prophetic perspective who undertook the ecumenical journey before it acquired typical forms of the ‘institutional’ ”.
The division of the churches was the product, primarily, of theological reasons and doctrinal issues, present even among the different churches. To try to overcome these differences, countless colloquiums, meetings and dialogues have taken place at different levels, which seek to take authentic steps towards the integral Christian alliance. The existence of other ecumenical dimensions that are not strictly doctrinal cannot be denied and that, without being resolved, it is difficult for a fortuitous Christian unity to become probable.
It is completely undeniable that the doctrinal dialogue is today in the focus of the ecumenical current, for which the mixed delegations of theologians, representatives of the different churches in the doctrinal dialogue, make up the best evidence that the Christian communities are involved in serious way in the ecumenical movement.
There are numerous documents resulting from the multiplicity of bilateral dialogues (between two Churches) or multilateral dialogues (between three or more of them). Theologians and pastors of churches committed to dialogue are part of its preparation, which regularly takes years of work. They are the result of a vast movement that looks to the future, they do not try to have the last word, nor have they certainly achieved the best possible one.
Knowing that official representatives and theologians of different nationalities and of varied theological traditions intervene in the structuring of the mixed teams, the works have particular characteristics, among which its temporality must be highlighted, since an interdenominational theological document cannot be demanded the rigor and terminological accuracy expected of a confessional document.
If the text was signed by theologians, pastors or priests of private ecumenical groups, without any ecclesial formality, their authority is subordinated to the degree of solidarity and truth that they support with the faith of their particular Church. On no occasion should the text or statement in reference imply the Churches as such, since they are unofficial associations, but frequently their moral weight is a relevant contribution to the interfaith theological task.
If the text is signed by the members of the mixed groups or official commissions, but has not yet obtained the support of the ecclesiastical hierarchies, it does not have official value and therefore its authors are solely responsible for its conclusions. For this reason, it cannot yet be considered as a “Church statement” and does not authorize the change of the current discipline or rules. The fact that it has been published means that it can help and improve the theological reflection and the modification of the devout people’s thinking.
It is fostered, promoted and executed by the churches, and among these institutions we must highlight the Ecumenical Council of Churches (CEI), without any similar in the future of Christianity. It is not a Church, nor is it a super Church, nor is it the Church to come. It is also not a “universal council” in the Catholic or Orthodox sense of the phrase, nor could it resemble a “synod” according to the lexicon of many Reformed churches .
It is, however, the most complete manifestation of the desire for Christian unity that exists today among the churches, but it does not include the entire ecumenical movement nor has it ever had the intention of assuming the entire ecumenical task.
From the moment in which it came to be composed of more than 334 churches of all ecclesial confessions and almost all the nations of the world and maintains fraternal relations with numerous Churches that do not make it up, as is the case of the Catholic Church , it must be ensured that today it is the most relevant, best prepared and most representative crystallization of the resolute will of separated Christianity to manifest in a visible way the unity that Christ yearned for his Church.
The CEI cannot decide on behalf of the Churches it represents, nor does it have taxing authority over them. The theology of the CEI is not based on a conception of the Church itself, nor is it the instrument of one of them in particular. Even more, the incorporation of a Church to this entity does not mean that from that moment on it considers its conception of the Church as limited.
Even so, from a positive point of view it is ensured that the member Churches of the CEI are based on the New Testament to proclaim that the Church of Christ is one, they notice in the other churches at least components of the authentic Church that forces them to admit their solidarity, to give each other reciprocal help and support if required and to refrain from any act contrary to the maintenance of fraternal relations.
For the adhesion of a Church to the CEI, the consent of its doctrinal base is required, which is not exactly a confession of faith. Every Church has its particular confession of faith, which it must not resign by joining the ecumenical body.
It is evident that secular organizations, political factions or non-Christian religious associations cannot join the CEI. The CEI includes the Churches of the Anglican Communion, most of the Orthodox Churches, and a large part of the Protestant Churches of Lutheran and Calvinist custom.
Most of the free-tradition churches, sometimes called “evangelical”, such as the Baptists, a certain Lutheran synod and huge Pentecostal sectors are not part of the CEI, since they have thought they saw in it a risk to their own independence. Certainly the Churches that repudiate the CEI are doctrinally very conservative, contrary to dialogue and congregated in the International Council of Christian Churches  or in the World Evangelical Federation , obviously anti-ecumenical organizations.
Secular or social ecumenism must be considered as one of the phases of the ecumenical movement: in the first place there is the era of the precursors, the one that originates with the Evangelical Alliance  and with the World Federation of Christian Students at late nineteenth century. Then follows the ecclesiastical phase; it is the time when the Churches as such take the initiative.
It is an internal tendency of the ecumenical movement to put activities related to the social field before, which was erected as the purpose of one of the branches of the Ecumenical Council of the Churches already in the initial moments of its birth, which was called “Life and Action”.
The belief that the fundamental duty of today’s Christianity is also to point to the alliance of humanity, and not only of the Churches, promotes this kind of ecumenism, for which it appreciates more the universal action of understanding with the world, than the repetitive task and without evident fruit of a solely interecclesiastical alliance.
This is the description that Fr. Congar gives of this trend of ecumenism:
“It is the affirmative experience carried out by Christians effectively involved with others in the tasks of human liberation and who make, in this agreement, a new and evangelical experience of their faith.
The site of the evangelical experience is no longer the Church, since this is a sacral society set aside, but the human or secular reality that we know has reference to the divine kingdom…” [Congar, Essais oecumeniques, 57].
The Second Vatican Council refers in number 8 of the decree on ecumenism, that spiritual ecumenism is made up of a couple of elements: transformation of the heart and renewal of life in conjunction with the prayer for unity. “This conversion of heart and holiness of life, together with the private and public prayers for the Christian covenant, are to be esteemed as the soul of the entire ecumenical current and can rightly be called spiritual ecumenism” [UR, 8].
All true ecumenists have convinced themselves that a miracle is required to achieve Christian unity. The inconveniences that it achieves, from a human perspective, are insurmountable. Only God does miracles, but we know that we have access to God through prayer.
The Vision of the Unity of the Church by Roger de Taizé
Brother Roger Schutz, who founded the ecumenical Taizé Community, has been recognized as one of the figures who has contributed most to the promotion of the idea of ecumenism in the 20th century, particularly among young people. His view of Christian unity stems from the conviction that Jesus did not come to start a new religion, but to unveil God’s love and bring reconciliation to all.
Therefore, according to the ideology of Roger Schutz, Christians can be reconciled with each other through common prayer, which allows the Holy Spirit to enter the hearts of the actors. In 1972, young people demonstrated the importance they attached to the Taizé ecumenical message, as reported in the French daily Le Monde:
Nearly eighteen thousand young people from different countries celebrated the festivities of Easter in 1973 on top of the Taizé hill in Burgundy. The village has become one of the first European poles for groups of people under 30 years of age, to such an extent that it became necessary to demolish the façade of the church to widen it with a huge capital in the shape of a circus.
What is it that brings people to Taizé? Tourists have always existed. For a long time, the hill had become a passionate focus of ecumenism: Protestant in its origins (1944), its monastic congregation led the love for the alliance to the extreme of incorporating “brothers” who belonged to other Christian creeds.
But it was the announcement in 1970 of the “Youth Council” that was to give rise to an unprecedented movement. In 1972 one hundred thousand people from more than one hundred different countries gathered in Taizé. The theme of this immense assembly was: “Fight and Reflection to be men of communion.”
Robert Sole. The “Youth Council” in Taizé”. Le Monde, April 25, 1973
A general perspective, based on the considerations of René Berthier, makes it possible to highlight the following points which refer to the current state of affairs of ecumenism.
- The issue of baptism was definitively resolved: all Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican or Protestant, have recognized the merit of baptism provided by other Churches than their own. If a Christian wishes to be part of another Christian denomination, he does not need to be “baptized again.”
- Likewise, advances were made in the recognition of the legality of marriages officiated between spouses of different Christian faiths. A Catholic who wishes to marry a non-Catholic Christian only has to fulfill certain requirements that do not affect his idea of the sacrament.
- As a sign that announces the long-awaited final alliance, many wish and ask for the participation of Christians who are members of Churches other than Catholic in the Eucharist. Knowing that the practice has not yet been permitted by Christian churches, certain theologians have revealed areas of doctrinal agreement between the “breaking of bread” and the Eucharist as the authentic presence of Christ.
- Certain events, such as the sermon of the Primate of the Anglican Communion Rowan Williams at the International Eucharist in the Sanctuary of Lourdes, together with the measures that followed, are considered very positive for ecumenism.
- Likewise, although undoubtedly with difficulties, the theological inquiries initiated in common about the inconveniences of papal authority and the so-called pontifical infallibility are advancing. Specifically, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion are perceived as less distanced from each other on a doctrinal level.
- About problems of a moral nature, such as those of divorce or abortion, the discrepancies are not so extreme as to rule out a possible pact. With regard to more modern enunciation problems, such as those of social equity, international life and civil liberties (these include freedom of belief, freedom of education, freedom of expression, etc.), the points of sight are similar to the extent that the different Churches have pronounced themselves by means of joint communiqués.
- The relationships established at the hierarchical level are excellent, inconceivable a century ago. The “World Council of Churches”, representing the group of Churches of the Anglican Communion, Protestant and Orthodox, has a high moral reputation. The Catholic Church is not a member of the Council, but has been part of certain commissions, such as the “Faith and Constitution.” It is not ruled out that in the future he will join the Council as a full member.
- The alliance between the different Christian confessions is presented to us as an idea more typical of young Christians, to whom the meaning of life, the promotion of society, the meaning of the figure of Jesus Christ and the common support of solidarity are of great relevance. Perhaps it is for this reason that young people continue to feel so interested in experiences such as the one offered by the ecumenical Community of Taizé, or more innovative ones such as the religious-ecumenical community of the Missionaries of Sacramental Love.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Every year the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is commemorated, which traditionally takes place from January 18 to 25, between the festivities of the Confession of Saint Peter and the Conversion of Saint Paul. In other places, it is celebrated around the Pentecost festivities.