Indice > Dialoghi Interconfessionali > JWG > Fourth Official Rep. | CONT. > Part IV

     PREFACE - select
   PART I - select
   PART II - select
   PART III - select
Part IV

       (JOINT PROGRAMS) - select
       (CONCLUSION) - select


    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.

a) 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 paper prepared.

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 Directory
7 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.

c) 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).

i) 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 program.


    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.


    There is an amount of ongoing collaboration which should continue and develop. Notable are the following:

a) 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.

b) 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.

c) 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 initiatives.


The 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]



  1. "Declaration of the Synodal Fathers", L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, November 7th, 7 (1974) 3.

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  2. "Common Witness and Proselytism, A Study Document", Ecumenical Review 23, 1 (1971) 9-20; also SPCU, Information Service 14 (1971/II) 13-21.

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  3. Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, General Catechetical Directory, (London: Catholic Truth Society) 1972.

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  4. "Ecumenical Directory, Part. II", SPCU, Information Service, 10 (1970/II).

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