What are the priorities for the joint activities in the coming
years? The following section attempts a first answer. Obviously,
further developments may bring to the fore new tasks. At this stage,
the Joint Working Group submits to the parent bodies the following
program for approval and authorization.
Joint programs are proposed in the three areas of the Unity
of the Church, Common Christian Witness, and Development and Peace.
The Unity of the Church
The progress achieved in mutual understanding in recent
years is considerable. Bilateral confessional dialogues and multilateral
ecumenical conversations are leading to doctrinal convergences.
Although these findings still have to be submitted to the judgment
of the churches involved, they have decisively contributed to a
new climate. There is a new readiness to recognize a plurality of
expression in confessing the same faith. There is also the considerable
growth of local ecumenism which constitutes an important factor
in the growth towards unity.
Only a small beginning has so far been made in the
evaluation of the relationship of bilateral confessional dialogues
to one another and to multilateral conversations. An attempt needs
to be made to bring together and share widely the various insights
gained in the course of these discussions so that it may be seen
more clearly how they interact.
Roman Catholic membership in the Faith and Order Commission
offers a promising opportunity for collaboration. The instrument
of the Faith and Order Commission should be made use of to the fullest
possible extent. Certain studies of the Commission deserve special
attention, e. g., its studies on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry,
and on "The Teaching Office in the Church."
The Joint Working Group should explore ways of facilitating
the exchange of information and initiating joint reflection on all
of these activities, with a view to preparing a report on this.
Finally, the question needs to be examined as to the
role of ecumenical structures of collaboration, such as regional,
national and local councils. In many places Roman Catholic dioceses
and parishes are full members in councils, and in other places,
membership is proposed. The Secretariat for Promoting Christian
Unity has recently worked out a document on ecumenical collaboration
at regional, national and local levels. The World Council of Churches,
through its desk for relations with National Councils of Churches,
is engaged in a fresh evaluation of present structures of collaboration.
It has also been agreed that a survey be made jointly of those councils
of churches where there is Roman Catholic membership and an informal
b) Common Christian Witness
Both sides agree that their ecumenical commitment should
find expression also in common witness. In October, 1974, the Bishops'
Synod in Rome stated this need in the following terms: "In
carrying out these things we intend to collaborate more diligently
with those of our Christian brothers with whom we are not yet in
the union of a perfect communion, basing ourselves on the foundation
of Baptism and on the patrimony which we hold in common. Thus we
can henceforth render to the world a much broader common witness
to Christ, while at the same time working to obtain full union in
the Lord. Christ's command impels us to do so; the work of preaching
and rendering witness to the Gospel demands it"5.
The Joint Working Group has already undertaken a study
and produced a document on "Common Witness and Proselytism"6
which spoke of the conditions for common witness. It now seems appropriate
to take up the study again in terms of the possibilities and limits
of such common witness with regard both to its content and method.
It is proposed that the Joint Working Group arrange such a study.
It should draw on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and
subsequent official documents of the Roman Catholic Church, the
reports of the Assemblies of the World Council of Churches, the
results of the World Missionary Conference on "Salvation Today,"
the Faith and Order study "Giving Account of the Hope that
is within us," the section on "Confessing Christ Today,"
of the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, and on the
findings of the Roman Synod of Bishops, "The Evangelization
of the Contemporary World."
Consideration should also be given to the renewal
in catechetics in the churches. The issue has already been considered
in documents such as the General Catechetical Directory7
and the Ecumenical Directory, Part II, on Ecumenism in Higher Education8.
It is suggested that organized common reflection should determine
what possibilities there are for a common basis for religious instruction.
All of these developments point to another area for
discussion and mutual stimulation. It is proposed that the Joint
Working Group consider how new common insights from this relationship
might best be used, and report their findings to their parent bodies.
Development and Peace
For six years, the Committee on Society, Development and
Peace (SODEPAX) has been in existence, and has enabled the Roman
Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches to face together
vital issues of international social justice and to bear common
witness in this field. The experience of these years suggests that
the cooperation should be continued in the future. Efforts should
concentrate on the role of the Church in the search for a new, more
just and viable world order. Both sides have given approval in principle
for the continuation of the Committee on Society, Development and
Peace for a new term of three years, beginning on January 1, 1976,
under the sponsorship of the Roman Catholic Church (Pontifical Commission
on Justice and Peace) and the World Council of Churches (Unit on
Justice and Service).
A joint secretariat with at least two full-tine staff members
will be maintained. ii) It is agreed that the main purpose of
the Committee on Society, Development and Peace be education and
motivation of Christians in these fields; it should also draw
the attention of the parent bodies to the important aspects of
the joint research and suggest steps to be taken either separately
or together by them, or also through SODEPAX. iii) It is agreed
that the Committee, while continuing its present work, shall initiate
a study on Christian community and the search for a new world
order. This study should be carried out in close cooperation with
regional bodies already in existence on both sides. It may be
concluded with a joint international conference on the theme.
iv) The Committee and the Secretariat shall be entrusted with
the responsibility for carrying this program and shall report
annually to the parent bodies on the progress made; SODEPAX shall
be invited to give an account to the Joint Working Group between
the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches of
the aspects of its work which are relevant for the promotion of
the ecumenical movement in general. v) It is understood that the
parent bodies commit themselves to seek the funds required for
the administration and program budget of SODEPAX.
vi) The parent bodies will instruct the present SODEPAX Steering
Committee to work out the detailed proposals for the future joint
EXCHANGE AND STAFF CONTACT
There are areas in which collaboration has been at the level
of the mutual exchange of information and staff contact. Such areas
include dialogue with people of living faiths and ideologies, the
role of women, the family, human rights, international issues and
laity concerns. These contacts have served to discover further subjects
for study and to indicate collaboration which might be undertaken
together. There are for instance the whole range of important issues
such as spirituality, the mystical life and worship, pluralism,
and cultural diversity. There are other subjects too which do not
require continual study but which need to be considered from time
to time, such as mixed marriages.
The present level of mutual exchange and staff contacts
ought to continue and collaboration be intensified wherever possible.
The consultation on laity formation, held in Assisi in late 1974,
under the sponsorship of the Roman Catholic Laity Council and the
WCC Unit on Education and Renewal has been a particularly promising
example of encounter and exchange.
OTHER ONGOING COLLABORATION
There is an amount of ongoing collaboration which should
continue and develop. Notable are the following:
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
For several years, a joint Roman Catholic Church and World
Council of Churches' group has been responsible for preparing the
material to be used as a help in this annual observance. Since 1972,
a small consultation of Roman Catholics and WCC staff has edited
the material for international use from initial material prepared
by a local committee. A group in Melbourne (Australia) prepared
the initial material for the Week of Prayer 1975, and the Carribean
Conference of Churches has prepared the material for 1976.
Christian Medical Commission
The World Council of Churches Christian Medical Commission
seeks to develop an understanding of the nature of the Christian
ministry of healing and the role of the Church in health and medical
work. The Roman Catholic Church has had observers at several of
the meetings of the Commission and has for the past three years
appointed a staff consultant to the Commission. A new mandate for
the Commission is at present under discussion. It is desirable that
Roman Catholic collaboration be continued in the future.
Relations with CWME (Commission on World Mission and Evangelism)
There are also noteworthy developments in the field of mission.
A number of Roman Catholic missionary orders which work with the
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples have developed links
with the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the World
Council of Churches. They have accepted a consultative relation
with the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism and have named
observer consultants to the Commission for a fixed term.
These examples of collaboration, given under the above
headings, are not exhaustive. Further forms will need to be developed
as Christians in various local situations are informed of what is
happening in other places and themselves proceed with appropriate
World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church remain open
to unexpected possibilities, ready to undertake the new tasks which
will be demanded by the developing dialogue and cooperation. Thus
the Joint Working Group looks to the future with a renewed commitment
to the one ecumenical movement. It will go on trying faithfully
to discern the impulse of the Holy Spirit, given by God as guide
on the way ahead.
[Information Service 30 (1976/I) 18-23]