Vatican II: A Walk-Through - Decree on Ecumenism
Over the centuries differences between Christians have led to profound divisions,
but modern times have seen a great movement towards unity; and the decree begins
by saying, "Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. One of the
principal concerns of this Council is the restoration of unity among all Christians."
- All who have been "justified by faith in baptism" are members of the Body of Christ;
they all have the right to be called Christian; the children of the Catholic Church accept
them as brothers.
- The Catholic Church believes that the separated Churches and communities "are efficient
in some respects." But the Holy Ghost makes use of these Churches; they are means of
salvation to their members.
- Catholics are encouraged to join in Oecumenical activity, and to meet non-Catholic
Christians in truth and love. The task of "Oecumenical dialogue" belongs to theologians,
competent authorities representing different Churches.
- Catholics should not ignore their duty to other Christians --- they should make the first
approach. Even so, the primary duty of the Church at the present time is to discover what
must be done within the catholic Church itself; to renew itself, to put its own house in order. Catholics sincerely believe that theirs is the Church of Christ; everything necessary must be
done that others also may clearly recognize it as Christ's Church.
- The ecumenical movement can make no progress without a real change of heart.
Theologians and other competent Catholics should study the history, teaching and liturgy of separated Churches. All Christians have a common purpose -- to confess Christ before men. Practical expression must be given to this, by relieving the distress which afflicts so many of
the human race: famine, poverty, illiteracy, the unequal distribution of wealth, housing shortage.
- In appropriate circumstances prayers for unity should be recited jointly with
non-Catholic Christians. Catholics are to be directed in this by their bishops,
subject to the decisions of the Holy see.
- Between the catholic Church and Western non-Catholic Christian communities, important differences remain; these differences are most evident in the interpretation of truth revealed
by God. But the bonds of unity are already strong; their strength must be put to use. The
bonds are, chiefly, the fact that Christians believe in the divinity of Christ and the fact of
reverence for God's word revealed in the Bible.
- In the cause of ecumenism, the Catholic must always remain true to the Faith that he has received. Impudent zeal in this matter is a hindrance to unity and not a help. So also is any
attempt to achieve a merely superficial unity.
Next: Other Problems
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