Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > JWG > Third Official Rep. | CONT. > Appendix I


   INTRODUCTION - select
Appendix I: Report on Activities
(I. The Faith and Worship of the Churches)

   III. THE LAITY - select
   I. COMMON WITNESS - select
   CONCLUSION - select

  PART ONE - select
  PART TWO - select
  Appendix I - select
  Appendix II - select
Appendix III - select
Appendix IV - select
Appendix V - select
Appendix VI - select
Appendix VII - select
   Contributors - select


   In recent years there has been a rapid growth in cooperation between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. Joint studies and projects were initially still regarded as the exception and only proposed rather tentatively but joint planning has increasingly become the rule. A marked extension of cooperation to many new areas of activity followed the adoption of the first official report in 1966. This cooperation is now so varied and extensive that it would be difficult to give a complete survey.

   The cooperation stimulated by the Joint Working Group forms only a limited section of the total field of ecumenical collaboration, and one which cannot be isolated from the work of the ecumenical movement as a whole. The present report, however, is restricted to the specific responsibilities of the Joint Working Group and deals with what has been achieved since the second official report, published in 1967.

I. The Faith and Worship of the Churches

a) The Commission on Faith and Order

   Roman Catholic theologians have increasingly participated as observer-consultants in the studies undertaken by the Commission both at a regional level and at a world level. A notable step forward was registered following the second official report in 1967. With the agreement of the Roman Catholic Church, the Uppsala Assembly of the World Council of Churches invited nine Roman Catholic theologians to become members of the Commission on Faith and Order. Among current studies in the general framework of Faith and Order the following examples may be cited:

        1. Studies on the Authority of the Bible

   The 1967 report had stressed the importance of this theme. A document prepared by the Faith and Order Commission is now being studied by a number of regional groups, most of which have Roman Catholic members. Roman Catholic faculties and other similar centers have displayed special interest in the subject. At least three of the groups at work are predominantly Roman Catholic in membership (in Spain, France and Germany).

        2. Worship Studies

   The World Council of Churches was invited to send observers to the meetings of the council set up to implement the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Official links between this council and the Faith and Order Commission were established in the spring of 1968. It became clear in the discussions that even in this field joint study of many questions is possible.

   In the course of the sixth and seventh meetings of the Joint Working Group, in December 1967 and May 1968, much time was devoted to the problem of intercommunion. The Joint Working Group looked at the theological and liturgical aspects of intercommunion. In December 1968 it decided to suspend its work in this field although keeping the subject on its agenda, since the Faith and Order Commission (now enlarged to include the participation of Roman Catholic theologians) was initiating a study of intercommunion. (A provisional study paper has since been published with the title "Beyond Intercommunion: On the Way to Communion in the Eucharist," in Study Encounter, 5, 3 (1969) 94 ff.).

b) Joint Theological Commission on Catholicity and Apostolicity

   The second official report described the membership and first meeting of this Joint Theological Commission, which has pursued its work in two further meetings. The results of its discussions so far have been summarized in a report already published in French and English. This document seeks to define the two terms "catholicity" and "apostolicity" with a view to establishing the areas of agreement which could provide a starting point for future ecclesiological studies within the ecumenical movement. It also tries to determine which theological problems are in most urgent need of attention in view of the rapid development of both the ecumenical movement and theology, and the consequences of this development in the life of the churches.

   With only fourteen members, the Commission could hardly claim to represent the whole spectrum of confessional traditions and theological trends. A much wider circle of theologians was therefore consulted before the document was given in its final form.

   At its meeting in May 1970, the Joint Working Group agreed to adopt the report and recommended its publication2. It was hoped that this would ensure that the document was circulated in colleges, ecumenical groups and institutions, the Faith and Order Commission, National Christian Councils, ecumenical and theological commissions of Episcopal Conferences and other similar bodies.

   In August 1970 a consultation was held to draft a list of questions raised in the discussions to which the Faith and Order Commission should give priority in its future work. This 1970 consultation also prepared recommendations for presentation to the meeting of the Faith and Order Commission at Louvain in August 1971.

c) The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

   The team of representatives of the Faith and Order Commission and of the Roman Catholic centers working in this field was set up in accordance with the recommendations made by the joint consultation held in October 1966, referred to in the second official report of the Joint Working Group. This team has met regularly since. As a result it has been possible to plan the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity jointly. The consequence has been a far greater measure of cooperation and common prayer in the actual celebration of the Week than ever before.

d) The Date of Easter

   The Joint Working Group recognized in its second official report that there was no easy or speedy way to solid agreement between all the churches on the date of Easter.

   To bring this agreement nearer, a consultation was organized by the Faith and Order Commission at the Orthodox Center at Chambésy, Geneva, from March 16-20, 1970. Three Roman Catholic observer consultants participated in the consultation, representing the Secretariat for Christian Unity.

   The consultation felt that there were two possibilities:

1) Either to fix Easter on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox (employing the Gregorian calendar, which takes March 21 as the spring equinox and adopts scientific astronomical methods to determine full moon). This solution would respect the ancient rule as adopted by the Council of Nicea.

2) Or to choose a fixed Sunday in April. This solution, too, respects the wishes of the Council of Nicea in the sense that the main concern of the Council was to arrive at an agreed date, although, of course, it does not follow the strict letter of the decision usually attributed to the Council.

   The consultation expressed its preference for the second alternative and suggested the Sunday following the second Saturday in April, though it had no objection to another Sunday being chosen if this would make the adoption of a common date for Easter possible for all Christians and in particular for all the Orthodox Churches3.


  1. See Appendix III. The text has been published in Irénikon, 43, 2 (1970) 163-200 and in One in Christ 4, 3 (1970) 452-483.

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  2. The full text of this report will be found in the Ecumenical Review 23, 2 (1971) 176-181.

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