Before submitting proposals for its future work,
the Joint Working Group wants to draw attention to a concern which
applies equally to all areas of its activities. In the mandate
of the JWG, given in the Fourth Report and reaffirmed here, hope
is expressed that the JWG will "draw upon insights gained
from local experience to foster... collaboration." Already
in its interim account, published with the agreement of the parent
bodies in 1980 (cf. "Deepening Communion.' An Account
of Current Work", Ecumenical Review 32, 2 (1980) 179ff),
the JWG expressed its conviction "that it needs to receive
greater visibility in order to stimulate local collaboration"
(ibid., 185). Examples were given there of how this objective
could be achieved. They included the sharing of results of its
deliberations with the constituencies on both sides, even at an
interim stage, the sharing of study documents, visible gestures
to highlight aspect of collaboration, visits, special meetings,
using the Week of Prayer, and highlighting the Joint Working Group
The way towards unity
Were a reminder needed, the experience of the past decade
would demonstrate that the necessary process of mutual clarification,
study and negotiation is not itself enough to achieve unity. The
ecumenical movement is an integral part of the whole reconciling
work of Christ in which we participate most fruitfully by that
holiness of life which is an identification with God's will. Essential
to it is a conversion of heart and life both corporate and individual.
This must vivify and motivate the necessary renewal of present
structures and provide the impulse not only to bring Christians
together and enable them to accept each other but to arrive at
a common confession of the one faith and reconciliation in one
ministry. It is, in short, the conversion to that which God wills
for the Church. This is the condition which is indispensable for
all the other efforts to be fruitful.
Significant progress has been made in recent years through
bilateral and multilateral dialogues, in cooperation between the
JWG and Faith & Order, as well as through the forum on bilateral
conversations, in sharpening the common understanding of the goal
of unity as well as discerning essential elements and conditions
of unity. While the JWG is not itself the place for dialogue as
such, it does have to concern itself with the whole relations
between the Roman Catholic Church and the member churches of the
World Council and must therefore interest itself in the results
of the dialogues and their meaning for unity. The JWG should maintain
close contact with the work of the Commission on Faith & Order,
especially in the area of a common expression of the apostolic
faith and in the deepening of agreement on the understanding and
practice of baptism, eucharist and the ministry. The publication
of the convergence statement, "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry"
presents a considerable challenge also for the Catholic side as
it becomes necessary to determine how far this work does represent
a convergence in faith.
In continuing the earlier joint program on the "Unity
of the Church, the Goal and the Way," outlined in 1976, the
Joint Working Group proposes to focus attention on those parts
which have not been sufficiently taken up, i.e., (1) a renewed
reflection on the Church as sign and sacrament, coming back after
more than a decade to its earlier ecclesiological study on "Catholicity
and Apostolicity"; (2) a continuation of the review of ecumenical
structures of collaboration, specifically councils of churches
and the other interim structures which already express a unity
"in via." In pursuing this study, attention should be
given to the themes proposed by the exploratory consultation organized
by the Faith & Order Commission and the Secretariat for Promoting
Christian Unity in 1982 on the significance of councils of churches
in the ecumenical movement. These include the following:
the ecclesial importance of the "recognition" and
"fellowship" experienced in a council of churches:
the place of councils on the way towards visible unity, and
their role in promoting movement from one stage to another;
the interaction of local, national, regional and world "levels"
as these affect the life of councils and their member churches;
- the relation of councils of churches to other forms of ecumenical
Further, to emphasize the search for "visible interim
steps," the JWG sees potential value in a reflection on the
possibilities of common worship including the sharing of liturigical
and devotional resources, the ecumenical significance of the veneration
of saints and the encouragement of informed, mutual intercession
(See For All of God's People, (Geneva: WCC, 1978)).
Finally, in line with the effort of recent years to face
together the pastoral care of mixed marriages, it would be valuable
to reflect on what has been happening. It might be possible to
see how this pastoral collaboration could intensify and become
more widespread so that a better witness be given to the growing
unity between churches.
2. Common Witness
Work for the visible unity of the Church and common witness
in the world are intimately related. The two studies published
by the Joint Working Group - "Common Witness and Proselytism"
(1970), and "Common Witness" (1981), bring evidence
to show that common witness is one of the essential ways of discovering
and deepening the unity which is given in Christ while the strongest
form of common witness is the will of the churches to give visible
expression to the communion which already exists among them. This
communion is not yet complete but common witness serves to show
in striking ways how it is growing, and is a means of deepening
it. Inevitably in giving witness together, divided Christians
are brought in new and painful ways to face the divisions which
remain, yet this very experience becomes, through witness given
together, an impelling motive to work for the fullness of visible
communion. Common witness does not confuse or hide the issue of
division but helps the churches live and act together before the
world in the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is thus
a test and condition for the ecumenical movement.
Therefore, the JWG affirms common witness as one of its
priorities. It will explore ways in which the relationship between
the RCC and the WCC may give evidence of it. It has also to work
out the implications of the 1981 document for possible action
at world level by the RCC and the WCC. The document is translated
into several languages and it must continue to be the task of
the JWG to ensure that it is brought in an adequate way to the
attention of the RCC and the WCC member churches for reflection,
reaction and implementation, so that they may renew their commitment
to witness in unity and may explore fuller possibilities of common
witness in their respective situations.
Part of the task is also an articulation of the import
of the theological perspectives on common witness, outlined in
the study document, for the other studies on the unity of the
Church, for the reception of the doctrinal convergences being
reached by the churches, and ultimately for the achievement of
a sharing in eucharistic communion.
In view of the desire expressed at the time of the Second
Vatican Council for a common declaration on religious freedom,
and giving account to the present situation in the world which
elicited the recent statement of the World Council of Churches
on religious liberty, it becomes desirable to explore the possibility
of working together on the question of religious liberty to secure
a common witness.
Recently the Joint Working Group has stressed the need
to stimulate ecumenical awareness and to give a new ecumenical
formation on regional and local levels by various endeavors of
common witness. One means of doing this may be through a series
of joint regional consultations over the next few years to explore
in a practical way opportunities for common witness.
Common witness includes the efforts of the churches to
act together in the defense and promoting of human dignity, the
relief of human need and the affirmation of justice and peace
which must be expressed in human relationships and in the structures
of society. The concern for Christian social responsibility is
an integral part of the apostolic mission of the Church. Missionary
perspectives necessarily open on to solidarity with the poor,
justice, peace, respect for human rights, while the social responsibility
of the Church has its context in the proclamation of the Word
and the opening of the human spirit to the transcendent.
This area however has also an integrity of its own and
should continue to be seen by the JWG as belonging to its proper
field of concern. Recognizing that social collaboration will continue
to be conditioned by the differences in structure and method of
working in the RCC and the WCC, the Joint Working Group should
not cease to encourage the development of flexible forms of collaboration
on the international as well as on national and local levels.
Despite the doctrinal differences among the churches, in
recent years, an ecumenical convergence has been growing in the
understanding of several issues in social ethics. Recognizing
this convergence the JWG should look for ways which could help
to make visible to a wider audience the joint commitment to these
elementary affirmations about Christian social responsibility
which are in conformity with the common Christian faith. In accordance
with its earlier discussion at Le Louverain (1979), the JWG sees
value in exploring possibilities of common pastoral and catechetical
guidance and common work in the following areas
Development: There is, for example, agreement that structural
changes are required in the international economic order to
correct inequities and spread the use of resources and the benefits
of technology among all peoples.
Peace: Agreement exists, among other points, that the madness
of the arms race diverts resources from development, increases
the threat of force in international dispute, and creates the
conditions for the destruction of the human race.
Human Rights: Based on inherent human dignity, the image
of God' in us, and on our common redemption in Christ, the rights
(inter alia) to life, to access to health care, to work, to
a decent standard of living, to cultural identity, to education,
to participation in public life, to dissent for consciences'
sake, to physical and psychological integrity, to freedom from
torture, and to religious liberty, must be safeguarded by international
agreement" (see Minutes of the JWG, Le Louverain, 1979).
should also be given to the possibility of encouraging initiatives
in the area of racism and concerning the role of women.
In addition, the Joint Working Group had noted in
1979 that there are on which convergence is lacking and which
need to be explored further before common action could be possible.
"These differences appear among the member churches of the
WCC as well as between some of them and the Roman Catholic Church:
the pattern of difference changes with the issues include: Aspects
of the roles of women and men in the life of the community; patterns
of family life, birth control and sexual ethics; forms and means
of responding to the need for social change; and methodological
approaches to ethics.
Finally, the Joint Working Group should look for
ways to enrich and deepen the joint reflection of the WCC and
the RCC on basic theological and ecclesiological themes which
constitute the necessary background for deeper mutual understanding
of ecumenical social responsibilities. Such themes are the relation
of the Kingdom of God to this world, the role of faith in social
problems, the relation between evangelism and struggle for justice
in society, the action of the churches and the role of laity,
the modes of intervention of the Church in the secular realm of
On a more practical level the JWG should entourage appropriate
initiatives to come to a closer and more effective coordination
between the network of RCC and WCC related service agencies at
various levels in the area of aid and relief, in order to avoid
the possibilities of divisive effects of separate programs for
It is important to find ways of sharing information about
the considerable volume of ecumenical work going on in local situations
and to evaluate this so that a fruitful interaction may be achieved
between initiatives at various levels.
The JWG insists on the present urgency of the task of ecumenical
formation. It stresses that the improved relations between still
separated Christians are not enough. The scandal of Christian
division and their deleterious effect on Christian witness continues
to obscure the saving power of Christ's Brace. God's plan to sum
up all things in Christ requires to be shown forth in the common
proclamation of the one apostolic faith and in the communion of
the one visible eucharistic fellowship and to be an active power
in drawing the human community into reconciliation and oneness.
Hence the need to deepen an understanding of the mystery of the
Ecumenical formation is a process which includes several
elements. It means imparting information about what God is doing
through the ecumenical movement to draw his people into one. It
entails learning about existing differences between Christians
and their churches and about the new convergences being achieved.
Such learning comes both from obtaining the relevant information
and from involvement in the deeper levels of experience in the
life of the Christian community at worship, in service and in
witness. It comes too in the acknowledgment and practice of responsibility
towards each other by communities of separated Christians as well
as by their engagement in various forms of ecumenical dialogue.
The ecumenical dimension is an indispensable part of all
processes of Christian formation and nurture, be it the formation
of laity, youth work, programs of catechesis and religious education
or theological training.
Today many people, especially those participating in programs
of laity formation, receive their most significant experience
of the ecumenical dimension in the common effort for justice,
peace and development. Such initiatives touch on urgent problems
and bring Christians together in the exercise of responsibility
for building the whole human community as well as relating global
issues to daily action.
Reflection on the nurturing character of all these experiences
is needed. It is clear that further ways have to be found of bringing
together the different processes of learning, relating formal
teaching processes to informal methods of learning (such as conscientization).
This can also help Christians to appreciate the necessary relation
between the goal of the unity of the Church and the concern for
the unity of mankind.
Much has to be done if ecumenical formation is to become
a full part of the whole Christian ministry. The impact of ecumenical
initiatives among educators often remains on the professional
level and insufficiently communicates with or benefits from the
experience of parish and local communities. Promising new forms
of Christian formation at various levels still often do not take
sufficient account of the ecumenical movement and its role in
the mission of the Church. More attention could be given to the
ecumenical process found in frequent local and spontaneous efforts
of local and spontaneous joint study and action (e.g., during
The formal catechetical programs of various churches often
take the ecumenical dimension for granted. It is necessary to
spell it out sufficiently and to exploit the new theological convergences.
Opportunities of joining in common action with regard to catechetical
materials or syllabuses, where this is possible (see the Apostolic
Exhortation of pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae), must not
Young people have a new experience and often relate to
events in the world with a special sensitivity. Better ways must
be found of alerting them to the ecumenical dimension and its
place in the total responsibility of Christians to and for each
other and for the world. As they face life they need help to discern
and to use those living situations where ecumenical learning takes
place. In this they will need the wisdom and support of those
who have pastoral and teaching roles in the Church. Likewise those
who have leadership in the churches have to show confidence in
young people and react with sensitivity to the contribution which
they will make.
Another crucial area is that of theological education and
particularly the education of pastors, perhaps the most influential
point in ecumenical sensitization. There is a great range of possibilities
but even where there are joint or collaborative faculties and
programs more could be done to draw out their potential with the
support and guidance of those responsible in the various churches.
In some seminaries homage is paid to ecumenical ideals while there
is an absence of any formal teaching about the ecumenical movement
or its history and its theological, spiritual and pastoral significance
for the Christian community. As well as trying to include the
ecumenical dimension in the courses on theology it seems still
necessary to have also courses which give explicit information
and reflection on the ecumenical movement.
At this point in the history of the ecumenical movement
and of the relations between the RCC and the WCC and its member
churches a new effort has to be made to assess and use more effectively
the resources for this basic task of ecumenical formation.
It will be the task of the Joint Working Group to look
carefully at what can be done to develop and extend the regular
pattern of collaboration and common effort with the various sub-units
of the World Council of Churches. In several instances it is substantial
and has its own rhythm and style, in others it is still necessary
to be on the watch for possibilities of deepening what are as
yet only initial contacts. There are several areas where immediate
work has to be done.
a) Faith & Order
With completion of the study "Baptism, Eucharist and
a Mutually Recognized Ministry" it is now important to find
the right ways of obtaining reactions. First steps were taken
at an earlier stage in the work and these did involve some Catholic
theological faculties. Now the effort has to be made on a wider
scale to have the document known and to test its conclusions so
that the convergence in faith which it represents may become part
of the consciousness of Christian people. Further necessary progress
can take place only if discussion is aroused on all levels, especially
on the implications of the convergences for the relationship between
A similar task has to be done with the study "Toward
a Common Expression of the One Apostolic Faith Today," although
this is not yet in its final stages.
b) Dialogue with Other Faiths and Ideologies
The pattern of contact and exchange of collaboration now
seems to have developed to the point where one or other initiative
of common program could be undertaken and ways of giving visible
and structured expression to the relationship be explored.
Community of Women and Men in Church and Society
Work on this theme has been done on the Roman Catholic
side and is actively being pursued in the World Council of Churches.
It involves many of the major issues of today seen from the angle
of the involvement and responsible participation of men and women
in the life of society. It seems desirable to do more towards
a sharing of information and resources and, if possible, coordination
of work with consideration given eventually to common efforts
in evaluation and follow-up. It could be interesting also, and
not only in connection with this question, to look together at
the changes on each side in the understanding of the role of the
laity over the last thirty years.
Joint Staff Meetings
Meetings between the staff of the individual responsible
Roman dicasteries and the corresponding sub-unit of the World
Council of Churches have proved their usefulness for exchange
of information, mutual sharing of resources and discovering ways
of developing the partnership. They already take place regularly
between the Pontifical Commission justice and Peace with the Churches'
Commission on International Affairs and with the Churches' Commission
for Participation in Development, between the Dialogue with Living
Faiths and Ideologies and the Secretariat for Non-Christians,
between the Program for Theological Education and the Congregation
for Catholic Education, between the Pontifical Council for the
Laity and the Unit on Education and Renewal. It is important to
be alert to new possibilities for bringing other partners from
each side into such a regular contact.