On December 4, 2020, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity published a 26-page “ecumenical vademecum” as guide for Catholic bishops to promote unity with other Christian communities, offering practical advice for how to overcome common challenges to ecumenism.
The vademecum recalls that ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious dialogue have different aims. Dialogue with different religious traditions aims at establishing “good relations and cooperation,” but dialogue with different Christian communities “aims at restoring the unity Christ willed for his Church.”
“The ministry of the bishop is the ministry for unity,” and “not just for his own diocese or for the Catholic Church, but unity for the whole of Christians.”
This document also notes the obligation of lay Catholics to work for unity with other Christians and promotes “practical ecumenism,” which it describes as Christians serving together to promote a common cause or to address injustices.
“Lack of unity among followers of Jesus … undermines evangelization and obscures the person of Jesus.” “Our common service manifests before the world, therefore, our shared faith, and our witness is more powerful for being united.”
The document highlights prayer, noting that by “praying for unity, we acknowledge that unity is a gift of the Holy Spirit and not something we can achieve through our own efforts.”
Ecumenism is not based on compromise, but rather how we “seek to emphasize the Christian faith that we share with others and to present the theological differences that divide us with balance and accuracy.” Ecumenism requires charity as we continue the search for unity that leads us into a fuller appreciation of God’s revealed truth.
In the gospel for this Second Sunday, Jesus asked his followers “What are you looking for?” He then invites them to “come and see.” Jesus knew what they were seeking; it is what we all seek – peace, hope and salvation. We know from his teaching in John’s Gospel, what he longs to show us is where he abides. In John 15:4-16, Jesus shares the blessing of abiding with him; there, we can bear much fruit in our faith.
Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
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