12/04/2020, 14.10
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A Vademecum for ecumenism, the 'duty and obligation' of every bishop

The document of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity was presented, which " first of all a challenge to Catholics ". The Vademecum serves, Pope Francis said, as "encouragement and guide" to the exercise of the bishop’s responsibilities for Christian unity.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Ecumenism, that is, the search for Christian unity is, for, "a duty and an obligation" every bishop and in order to "encourage, assist and guide" the Catholic bishops, a document titled "The Bishop and Christian Unity: Ecumenical Vademecum" of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity was released today.

Born from a request made by the members and consultors of the Dicastery during the 2016 plenary, the Vademecum was approved by Pope Francis who expressed the hope that it will serve as "encouragement and guide" to the exercise of the ecumenical responsibilities of the bishops.

This is no small responsibility, given that, as the document states, " The long history of Christian divisions and the complex nature of the theological and cultural factors that divide Christian communities are a great challenge to all those involved in the ecumenical endeavour. And indeed the obstacles to unity are beyond human strength; they cannot be overcome by our efforts alone”.

Pesenting the Vademecum, Card. Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, described how it is divided into two parts. The first, "The promotion of ecumenism in the Catholic Church", sets out what is required of the Catholic Church in the fulfilment of its ecumenical mission.

"Indeed, as the Vademecum states, 'The search for unity is above all a challenge for Catholics' (6). In this first part, the Vademecum therefore takes into consideration the structures and people active in the ecumenical field at the diocesan and national levels, ecumenical formation and the use of diocesan mass media ".

In the appendix, the Vademecum lists the "partners of the Catholic Church in international dialogue". A list that begins with the Orthodox Churches of Byzantine tradition and continues up to the Salvation Army.

The second part of the document "The relations of the Catholic Church with other Christians", highlighted Card. Koch, “examines four ways in which the Catholic Church interacts with other Christian communities. The first way is that of spiritual ecumenism, which, as the Council says, is the soul of the ecumenical movement '(UR §8).

The Vademecum emphasizes in particular the importance of the Holy Scriptures (20), of the ecumenism of the saints' (22), of the purification of memory (24). The second path is the dialogue of charity, which deals with the promotion of a 'culture of encounter' at the level of daily contact and collaboration, nourishing and deepening the relationship that already unites Christians by virtue of baptism. As Saint John Paul II says in the Encyclical Ut unum sint: 'the recognition of fraternity [...] goes far beyond an act of ecumenical courtesy and constitutes a basic ecclesiological affirmation' (UUS 42) ".

“The Vademecum makes some practical recommendations in this regard; for example, to attend, as far as possible and opportune, the liturgies of ordination or installation of the leaders of other Churches, to invite the leaders of other Churches to liturgical celebrations and other significant events of the Catholic Church. The third way is the dialogue of truth, which refers to the search for the truth of God that Catholics undertake together with other Christians through theological dialogue. Here are mentioned some principles of dialogue as an exchange of gifts (27), of theological dialogue that 'does not seek a minimum common theological denominator on which to reach a compromise, but is rather based on the deepening of the whole truth' (28). The document mentions the challenge of welcome which must involve the whole Church in the exercise of the sensus fidei (30) ".

“The fourth way is the dialogue of life. With this expression we designate opportunities for exchange and collaboration with other Christians in three main fields: pastoral care, witness to the world and culture. As regards pastoral ecumenism, the Vademecum deals with issues such as collaboration in the field of mission and catechesis (34), mixed marriages (35), communicatio in sacris (36) ".

"In the field of practical ecumenism, the Vademecum deals with collaboration in service to the world (38), and interreligious dialogue as an ecumenical challenge (39). Finally, the document deals with cultural ecumenism, in particular through joint projects in the academic, scientific and artistic fields (41). The Vademecum not only recalls the principles of the bishop's ecumenical commitment but, at the end of each section, reports a list of 'practical recommendations', which summarize in simple and direct terms the tasks and initiatives that the bishop can promote at local and regional level ".

“The Church's task - reads the final part of the Vademecum - The task of the Church is always to receive the grace of the victory of Christ. The practical recommendation and initiatives suggested in this Vademecum are ways in which the Church and, in particular, the bishop can strive to actualise Christ’s victory over Christian division.”. (FP)

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