Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > JWG > | CONT. > Part I
I. Basic Questions
 APPENDIX I - select
 APPENDIX II - select



Meetings of Joint Working Group
Bossey (Geneva), May 22nd-24th, 1965
Ariccia (Rome), Nov. 17th-20th, 1965


I. Basic Questions

1. The Mandate of the Joint Working Group

    After several preliminary meetings between representatives of the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity and of the World Council of Churches, the mandate for the Joint Working Group was presented to and adopted by the Central Committee at its meeting in Nigeria in January 1965. It was thereafter also officially accepted by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church.

    In working out this project, the Roman Catholic side was guided by the Decree on Ecumenism promulgated at the end of the third session of the Vatican Council; while the representatives of the World Council of Churches based their approach on the main lines of several WCC documents that describe the nature and function of the World Council and on various statements made by the World Council on the contemporary ecumenical situation.

    Its task, both spiritual and pastoral, is to be undertaken in a spirit of prayer, and in the conviction that God is guiding His people. The Group is not limited to settling the technical and administrative aspects of collaboration; it is called on to discern the will of God in the contemporary ecumenical situation.

2. The Nature of Ecumenism

    The Working Group concerned itself in the first place with Ecumenism as the concept is understood by each side. It took account of the Catholic positions stated in the various documents of the Vatican Council. It also examined the various texts that express the position held by the WCC. Nor did it lose sight of the actual operation of the WCC. It is certainly difficult to draw a comparison between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC. On the one hand we have a Church, on the other a fellowship of Churches. In reality the concept of Ecumenism which is presented in the Vatican Council's Decree can be compared only with concepts to be found in similar documents emanating from other individual Churches. Nevertheless, the meeting of the RCC and the WCC has raised particular problems which require joint study. The task of Ecumenism is not regarded by the two sides in a wholly similar manner. It is therefore of importance that dialogue on this subject should be continued and deepened, so that a common understanding of it may be reached. In spite of differing views however, joint action can already be undertaken in various fields. The continued fostering and deepening of contacts can only help to clarify what still remains obscure.

    Furthermore, even if there exist in the various churches different ecclesiological principles that govern ecumenical action, we are convinced that the Ecumenical Movement is one and common to all.

3. Ecumenical Dialogue

    The Group also started a study on the nature of ecumenical dialogue. It has not yet been completed. On the request of the Joint Working Group a special sub-group prepared a document which will be discussed and approved at a later meeting. In the course of the discussions both sides stressed that ecumenical method requires that all encounters should take place on an equal footing. Attention was drawn to this essential characteristic of ecumenical dialogue both by the WCC Executive Committee at Odessa, and by the Vatican Decree on Ecumenism ("par cum pari").

4. Bilateral Conversations

    The existence of the joint Working Group does not prevent direct conversations being held between the Roman Catholic and other Churches. Questions concerning the relations of two Churches in the realm of faith and action fall within the sphere of bilateral conversations. This fact was expressly recognized when the mandate was defined. We believe, however, that multilateral and bilateral conversations are closely linked. It is for this reason that mutual exchange of information is of the very greatest importance.

5. Observers and Consultants

    The multiplication of ecumenical contacts makes it necessary to clarify the status enjoyed by those taking part in those contacts, with a proper regard for varying situations.

a) This cannot be done without some attempt at definitions: An Observer attends a meeting with a view to acquiring information for himself, and to giving information to his Church. In order to underline that an Observer does not assume his function on his own initiative, but that he is appointed to be his Church, the qualification "officially appointed" may be added to his title. It will be remembered that the Vatican Council understood the expression observer delegatus in this sense.

    A Consultant collaborates actively in the meetings which he attends. He may be called upon to speak, or to prepare material for study, etc.

    The functions of Observer and of Consultant may be combined. In that case we propose the use of the term Consultant-Observer.

    However, no matter how important the role of a Consultant-Observer may become, it must be borne in mind that his status (which is consultative), does not entitle him to speak or to vote.

b) In the present stage of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, the interchange of observers and consultants appears to provide the best means of establishing and maintaining contacts.
c) If a meeting is organised by the Roman Catholic Church in conjunction with another Church or Council of Churches, all the partners involved bear equal responsibility for the meeting and for its conclusions.
d) The Joint Working Group is not called upon to concern itself directly with national and local councils. It is evident in any case that a great variety of situations exist in this field. However, the Group feels that it should prove possible in many cases to give to Roman Catholics who are asked to concern themselves with the activities of national or local Councils, the status of Observer, or even that of permanent Consultant-Observer. This does not prevent the adoption of other solutions now or further developments in future.

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