Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > JWG > Second Official Rep. | CONT. > Part I
I. General Remarks
   2. UNITY AND MISSION - select
   3. LAITY AND UNITY - select
   4. SERVICE TO HUMANITY - select
   6. BIBLE TRANSLATION - select



I. General Remarks

  1. The Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches has not yet finished its task. It was set up at the beginning of 1965 by mutual agreement between the authorities of both bodies in order "to work out the principles which should be observed in further collaboration and the methods which should be used" (Mandate of the Working Group, see The Ecumenical Review, 1965, No.3, pp. 171-173, and the L'Osservatore Romano - February 20, 1966, p. 7).

    The group has studied the nature of the ecumenical movement, especially the relations between the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. We give here some of its conclusions. The field is so wide that it is hardly necessary for the Joint Working Group to explain why it has not completed its task in such a short time. Experience alone will make it possible to say where the real possibilities lie, which the study has glimpsed. Moreover, the relations between Churches are in a state of rapid change. New theological problems are coming to the fore and unforeseen situations are arising.

  2. The relations between the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, and the problems involved can be seriously considered only if they are understood as being within the whole ecumenical movement, which is an entirely new phenomenon characteristic of our time. Although the ecumenical movement is something new, the deep realities on which it is based are very old. Christians and the. Churches to which they belong are linked together through their faith in Christ, the Savior of the World, and through their desire to glorify God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They all share important elements of faith, of sacramental life and of ministry. Above all, they have a common point of reference, the Word of God, witnessed to by the Holy Scripture, which for them is not only an object of study and meditation but a norm for living.

  3. Today, without ignoring or minimizing the essential differences between them, Christians are re-discovering in other Churches these values which are part of the unique Christian heritage. They are discovering that a partial communion already exists between them, and they want to extend that communion to its fulness. The whole ecumenical movement is searching for that fulness, that unity of all Christians, in order to bear testimony to Christ in the world today. It expresses itself in a whole series of initiatives in which Christians cooperate: intercession, study, collaboration, experiments in joint witness... But within this multiplicity the ecumenical movement is unique. All those Churches which are concerned to strengthen the links between Christians are participating in one single movement.

  4. There is a host of those who contribute to the ecumenical movement; it is not our task to draw up a complete list of them. We wish simply to draw attention to the special function of the World Council of Churches and of the Roman Catholic Church in the service of the ecumenical movement, and to grasp as clearly as possible what the relationship between them should be.

  5. The World Council of Churches is a unique instrument of the ecumenical movement. How can Churches which are still separated live and bear witness regularly together without abandoning their convictions? The World Council of Churches was formed in order to give a concrete answer to this question. It is a fellowship of over 200 Churches, for which it has increasingly become a place and a center for common witness, collaboration, mutual aid and a common search for unity. It has thus enabled its members to deepen and extend their common Christian experience.

  6. The Roman Catholic Church is also making a notable contribution to the ecumenical movement, especially since the Second Vatican Council. The labors, spread over more than thirty years, of some of the best Roman Catholic theologians prepared the way for official entry into the ecumenical movement under the pontificate of John XXIII through the creation of a special Secretariat for Christian Unity. During the Vatican Council, in its Decree en Ecumenism, the Catholic Church explained the principles which inspire its action in this field and instructed all the Bishops to promote ecumenism.

  7. The World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church are being drawn closer together by their common service in promoting the one ecumenical movement. This very fact is forcing both institutions to define their mutual relationships, while taking due account of their disparity. The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of Churches, whereas the Roman Catholic Church is one Church. Joint study and the needs of the situations that arise will make it possible gradually to define the exact relation between these dissimilar entities.

  8. It is important for us to clarify the criterion which fixed these relations in the past, and according to which they must become increasingly close in future. This criterion must be sought in the service of the one and only ecumenical movement. The essential question, which must constantly be asked afresh, is the following: what form should be given to the relations between the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church in order to witness to Christ and to serve better the unity which He desires for His Church?

  9. How should one reply to this question today? Their common service - of the ecumenical movement forces both these institutions to envisage their future relations as a prolongation and an accentuation of the relations established between them during the past two years. Without entering into other considerations, the members of the Joint Working Group think that, for the moment, the common cause of Christian Unity would not be furthered if the Roman Catholic Church were to join the World Council of Churches. But this does not mean that they consider the present form of relationship as permanent. They realized the need for re-formulating in the near future the mandate of the Joint Working Group and modifying its composition. Within this modified setting they must continue and deepen their study of the bases of the ecumenical movement, its unity and its concrete achievements. This search will enable them to take another step forward.

  10. The aim of the present document is to set out briefly the concrete results of the exchanges that have already taken place, and to indicate a vision of the future in which the Joint Working Group foresees the need for constantly more dynamic relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches.

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