JOINT WORKING GROUP BETWEEN
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND
THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
THIRD OFFICIAL REPORT
the past five years there has been a development in relations between
the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. The
Joint Working Group, since its inception in 1965, has attempted
to encourage this development and to search out and recommend to
the responsible authorities on both sides areas and forms of cooperation.
In two previous reports presented in February, 1966, and August,
1967, it reviewed the many fields of common study and action. The
impressive range of common concern is clear evidence of the communion
already existing among the Churches. Since the publication of the
Second Report, there has been a marked increase in common programs
for study and action. An account of these will be found in the attached
survey of joint activity currently in progress (Appendix I).
Joint Working Group is convinced that the work of the past five
years has been worthwhile. At the same time a great many things
remain to be done. The Lord's demand is clear: "that they may
be one in order that the world may believe" (John 17, 21).
As we face this demand we are keenly aware of how much we still
fall short of giving to the world the sign of communion which should
arouse its faith in the love of the Father who sends his Son to
recognition of the contemporary situation calls for reflection on
the foundations for future co-operation among Christians, and specifically
between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches.
If on the one hand the scandal of disunity is sharper and the task
of overcoming our confessional differences becomes more imperative,
on the other hand it becomes clearer that we are faced with the
question of how to interpret the Gospel today so that we may respond
more faithfully to God's call to give witness to him in a way which
can be effectively heard by the world.
As one response to this double aspect of the ecumenical
problem the Joint Working Group offers to its parent bodies two
studies conducted under its initiative. The first is an effort to
describe more completely the conditions under which common witness
may be given as fully as possible in the concrete situation in which
the Churches still find themselves divided (cf. Appendix
II, Common Witness and Proselytism). Because there are certain
fundamental elements which limit this common Witness through lack
of full agreement as to its content, a second study is presented
which seeks to open paths for a deeper consideration of the confessional
differences which still divide us (cf. Appendix
III, Joint Study on Catholicity and Apostolicity)1.
The concepts of catholicity and apostolicity constitute a sensitive
point in the ecumenical dialogue. The work done by the joint theological
commission has made it possible to discover new areas of agreement
which are much larger than had been imagined at the beginning of
two studies are interrelated. It is hoped that they can offer fresh
impetus for study and action at various levels so that Christians
may respond more fully to the ecumenical task in today's world.
Christians strive for the coming of that unity which Christ wills
for them, they seek to create in a certain way, while they are still
divided, a community which will make it possible to begin to bear
the common witness demanded of them. This desire led to the formation
of the World Council of Churches and has animated its activity since
its foundations. The increasing co-operation which has taken place
in the part five years between the Roman Catholic Church and the
World Council of Churches has underlined the increased importance
of this search. As a result the Fourth Assembly of the World Council
of Churches at Uppsala (1968) and Pope Paul VI during his visit
to the Ecumenical Center in Geneva (1969) expressed the desire that
a study be made of the advantages and disadvantages of various possible
forms of collaboration or closer and more permanent association
of the Roman Catholic Church with the World Council of Churches.
The Joint Working Group is sponsoring a study of this question which
it hopes to conclude within the next few months.
In reflecting upon the first five years of its
mandate, the Joint Working Group recognizes that whatever may be
the results obtained up to now, they are still quite small in relation
to the urgent task which faces us today. Further progress calls
for a more complete engagement of the Churches at all levels. What
takes place in concrete situations can be of vital importance for
a more universal response to the demand of the Lord, for unity among
those who bear his name, to the call to bear a more perfect witness
in common to the world and to serve mankind better as we listen
attentively to what the Spirit is asking today of the Churches.
text, see Appendix III and One in Christ 4, 3 (1970)
452-483 and Ecumenical Review 23, 1 (1971) 51-69.