In the course of the last three decades, the relations
among the churches have changed profoundly. Though continuing
to live in a state of division, they have discovered anew, through
the ecumenical movement, the bond which holds them together despite
their differences. They have entered into dialogue. They have
begun to witness and to work together. They have begun to experience
a common spiritual joy. Attitudes of mutual exclusion have been
replaced by a common search for that true unity the disciples
are called to show forth in the world.
In this development, the World Council of Churches
has played a significant role. It has been an instrument helping
the churches to engage in encounter and exchange and calling them
to bear witness together to Jesus Christ and to the salvation
he has brought to the world.
The Second Vatican Council gave a decisive further
impulse to the ecumenical movement. In the documents of the Council,
in particular in the constitution Lumen Gentium and the Decree
on Ecumenism, the Roman Catholic Church has given new expression
to its understanding of the unity of the Church and committed
itself to participation in the ecumenical movement. This decision
opened the doors for mutual discovery and made possible, in some
measure, common witness and collaboration.
Inevitably, the question arose as to how the Roman Catholic
Church would relate to the World Council of Churches. In 1965,
after many preliminary contacts and conversations, it was decided
to set up the body known as the Joint Working Group, a commission
with the mandate to explore the possibilities of dialogue and
collaboration. More than ten years have passed since the Decree
on Ecumenism was promulgated and the Joint Working Group brought
into existence. Therefore, it has to be asked : where have we
been led during these years? What has been achieved? What should
and can be our goal in the years to come?
The Joint Working Group has served to strengthen the links
between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches.
In a number of fields, joint study and collaboration have been
initiated. On the other hand, the regular contacts and the common
reflection have also made the two partners more fully aware of
the implications of their collaboration. They have come to see
more clearly the obstacles which need to be overcome if fellowship
and collaboration among the churches are to grow.
Both the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council
of Churches are determined to continue their collaboration and
to seek together ways to serve the ecumenical cause. Therefore,
after ten years of common experience, it is appropriate to ask
anew the question how they can, together, best further the ecumenical
movement. How should the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council
of Churches be related to one another? What areas require primary
attention? What kind of common structure should be adopted?
The present report attempts to answer these questions
and submits to the parent bodies a number of recommendations as
to the next steps to be taken.