Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > JWG > Seventh Rep. | CONT. > Part IV
FOREWORD - select

III. ACTIVITIES OF THE JWG, 1991-1998 - select
A. The unity of the church – the goal and the way
B. Common witness
C. Ecumenical Formation
Some Others Areas of Collaboration
V. PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE (1998-2005) - select
 APPENDIX A - select
 APPENDIX B - select
 APPENDIX C - select
 APPENDIX D - select


IV. Some Other Areas of Collaboration

1. Interreligious dialogue

1. The WCC's Office for Inter-religious Relations (OIRR) and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) annually hold a joint meeting. Besides information-sharing, these meetings offer an opportunity to examine developments in interreligious relations, assess initiatives for dialogue and to reflect on future orientations and priorities. The PCID and OIRR invite each other to take part in their respective activities as well as in the meetings of their advisory bodies. Three joint projects during this period may be highlighted:

2. The OIRR and PCID study document Reflections on Inter-religious Marriages, published in 1997, grew out of a study launched in 1994 by sending questionnaires to different churches and communities and to a number of Christian and non-Christian spouses. The responses to these form the basis of the first part of the document. The second part takes stock of pertinent materials already produced by churches and Christian communities. The third part presents reflections of a pastoral nature. While addressed primarily to pastors, the document may also be useful for other people concerned with interreligious marriages.

3. Interreligious prayer is a growing phenomenon and there is a need to provide pastoral help to the churches. Is it possible to pray with people of other faiths which have different symbol systems and if so what does this mean? The OIRR-PCID joint study project Interreligious Prayer and Worship had three phases: a worldwide survey on the phenomenon with the help of the local churches (completed in 1995); a small consultation of persons who are engaged in the practice of interreligious prayer; and the formulation of conclusions by a consultation of persons with theological expertise (1997). A small number of Christian theologians, including RCs, offered biblical perspectives on interreligious prayer, the different readings of prayer in the churches and in their tradition, and different assessments of interreligious prayer.

4. The Middle East remains a major conflict area in which Jews, Christians and Muslims urgently need together to seek reconciliation, peace and justice. In particular, the city of Jerusalem requires people of these three monotheistic faiths to respond to that common religious call first revealed to Abraham: "to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just" (Gen 18:19). This is the background of a process initiated by the Lutheran World Federation and bringing together the OIRR, PCID and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews to co-sponsor two colloquia on Jerusalem.

The first colloquium — on the spiritual significance of Jerusalem for Jews, Christians and Muslims — took place in Glion, Switzerland, in 1993, before the Oslo political agreement between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority The Jewish, Christian and Muslim participants came mainly from Israel/West Bank-Gaza. By the time of the second colloquium, in Thessaloniki, Greece, in August 1996, the peace process was faltering and pessimism was in the air. The attempts of this colloquium to imagine the future of Jerusalem were unsuccessful. The final message recognizes Jerusalem as a "place of encounter between God and humanity and among human beings in their diversity." Jerusalem "is called to be the City of Peace, but at the moment, there is no peace. Although the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians has been initiated, there is still a long way to go before a just and lasting peace is achieved."

2. Diaconal Service

1. Participating in each JWG plenary was the secretary of Cor Unum, the pontifical council for promoting charitable works by Catholic institutes, which finance projects for the needy and facilitate relations with other Christian diaconal and secular international organizations. He kept the JWG up-to-date on Cor Unum activities and suggested ways of building bridges between it and the WCC's Program Unit on Sharing and Service (Unit IV).

In February 1997 the Unit IV director and a staff member went to Rome to introduce 1997 as the ecumenical year of churches in solidarity with uprooted people in meetings with the pontifical councils Cor Unum, for Migration and for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as with Caritas Internationalis. Together they explored areas for dialogue and practical cooperation.

2. The JWG received an extensive report on the main orientations and activities of Unit IV and its understanding of diakonia as an integral part of the churches' witness. This report detailed the established working relationships, in particular with RC international agencies, to assist refugees, uprooted people and migrants; and it identified common concerns for developing cooperation at the regional and national levels within those ecumenical organizations which have local RC churches in their membership.

The JWG observed that although the order of priorities may differ and the language used may not always be the same, both partners deeply shared the fundamental concerns regarding poverty and its root causes. But there is an asymmetry in the visible collaboration between offices concerned with diakonia in Unit IV of the WCC and in the Holy See (as is also the case between Unit III of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace).

For the JWG two questions remain: (a) how can the dimension of diakonia best be included in encouraging common witness, without disregarding the potential for divisiveness over what is authentic diaconal witness and what is proselytism? (b) how can the JWG take this into account in fulfilling its duty to encourage and facilitate local ecumenism (national and regional councils of churches)?

3. Social thought and action

1. Cooperation between the RCC and WCC member churches in social thought and action is very intense on many levels and in different ways, especially where the RCC is a member of national councils of churches. Events such as the two European Ecumenical Assemblies (Basel 1989; Graz 1997) show the possibilities of major collaboration and common witness on a regional level.

2. A number of difficulties mark the history of direct collaboration between the offices in Geneva and in Rome. From 1968 to 1980 the co-responsible agency between the Holy See and the WCC was the Joint Committee on Society, Development and Peace (SODEPAX). It was replaced, in 1982, by a weaker instrument, the Joint Consultative Group for Social Thought and Action, which became defunct in 1989. Specific tensions arose around efforts at collaboration in the WCC's 1990 world convocation on justice, peace and the integrity of creation (Seoul, Korea), growing out of differences between the WCC and the RCC in their approach to ideological tensions in the world, as well as their differing understandings of and structures for playing a role in international affairs. Also to be taken into account are the many legitimate differences of viewpoint on social and political questions existing within each church.

3. The JWG noted the recent efforts of Unit III of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) to reinforce their working contacts as the principal central instruments of collaboration in social thought and action. After an interruption of several years, the annual exchange of visits between the two institutions has been revived. These visits are finding new methods for common identification of priorities to be explored together while acknowledging one or the other body might be in a better position to approach a specific subject on its own, with the encouragement and support of the other. In this way it may be possible to test moral principles concerning social questions, using different methodologies while maintaining fellowship.

Among the issues in which future collaboration might be intensified are poverty, economic justice including the international debt, the environment, human rights, and conflict prevention, resolution and reconciliation. Common work, such as a jointly sponsored course of studies on Christian social thought today, could be carried out. The jubilee year 2000 could offer special occasions for collaboration.

Unit III and the POP have also decided to intensify their exchange of information and to encourage participation in each other's meetings as observers. A PCJP representative already participates in the Unit III commission meetings.

Both sides exchanged texts and documentation on religious freedom. The WCC drew attention to some aspects of the legal position of the Protestant churches in Latin America, where the majority church is Roman Catholic.

4. PCJP encouraged RC episcopal conferences to take part in the WCC petition campaign on climate change. The POP was represented in the WCC consultation on climate change (November 1996); and WCC representatives joined the RCC consultation on social thought and action for the English- and Portuguese-speaking African countries (August 1996) and the European conference on the social teaching of the church (July 1997).

5. The WCC and the PCPCU have also cooperated in projects involving other partners. An example was the March 1993 peace delegation to Guatemala and El Salvador, organized by the Lutheran World Federation and also including representatives from the WCC, the PCPCU, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and the Latin American Council of Churches. The delegation met with leaders of the RCC and Protestant churches in Guatemala; and a special ecumenical prayer service was organized in the Catholic cathedral in Guatemala City The group also met with the president of Guatemala and other government officials, with the ombudsman for human rights, with widows, refugees and war victims, with the chairman of the reconciliation committee facilitating the negotiations between the government and opposition leaders, and with representatives of the civil sectors.

In December 1996, after 36 years of war, the government of Guatemala and the opposition forces signed a peace treaty. The ecumenical concern which the peace delegation had expressed three years earlier was also a significant gesture which showed the Guatemalans, especially in the churches, the support they were receiving from fellow Christians in other parts of the world.

4. Decade of churches in Solidarity with Women

1. The WCC inaugurated the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998) with the goals of encouraging and facilitating responses to women in their efforts to affirm their full, creative empowerment in the life of their churches, through shared leadership and decision-making, theology and spirituality; of giving visibility to women's perspectives and actions in the struggles for justice, peace and the integrity of creation; of denouncing violence against women in its various forms; of considering the effects on women of the global economic crisis and the worldwide upsurge of racism and of xenophobia; and of enabling the churches to free themselves from racism, sexism and classism and from all teachings and practices that discriminate against women.

2. The Decade has given an opportunity for shared reflection and conscientization regarding the realities of the experiences of women as they participate in the life of the churches and in various cultural and political settings. Although the Decade was adopted as a program for WCC member churches, the RCC has been involved, most noticeably in meeting and acting together at local levels. Participation of RCs in local associations and councils of churches has allowed for joint planning, meetings and celebrations as the Decade progressed. Some RC church leaders were active in inaugurating and promoting the work of the Decade. For example, the RC bishop of Khartoum launched the Decade in the Sudan; and the National Board of Catholic Women acted in a consultative role on the Decade concerns for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

3. At its midpoint (1994-96), the Decade was "given back to the churches themselves," highlighted in a program which sent some 75 ecumenical teams to visit nearly every member church of the WCC. RC members of national and local ecumenical groups joined in welcoming and hosting many of these WCC — initiated visits and took an active part in the mid-Decade celebrations and events. For example, in Surinam, RC church workers participated in a series of discussions on the leadership of women in the churches. Awareness of shared concerns among churches was heightened in this way

During this period some papal documents mirrored concerns regarding women which are closely allied to WCC's goals for the Decade.

4. A summary report Living Letters was published by the WCC in 1997 on the basis of the findings from the team visits. Among the insights emerging from the Decade's worldwide activities, the report notes that although the Decade was addressed to the churches, it has in fact been limited mostly to women; the churches have not owned the Decade, nor have they provided the support necessary for it to become a transforming promise to the churches together. Nevertheless, for some the Decade has offered the opportunity to recognize that issues relating to gender and to community are not simply "women's issues" but belong to the Christian community of women and men — that is, to the whole church.

Index | Centro Activities | Course | Publications | Conferences
Week of Prayer | Library | Interconfessional Dialogues
Directory of Ecumenical Study Centers | Society of the Atonement
Guest Book | Credits | Site Map

1999-2004 © - Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, Inc.
Remarks to Webmaster at webmaster@pro.urbe.it