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Introduction
   I. THE ECUMANICAL SITUATION - select

   II. FUNCTIONS AND OPERATIONS OF THE JWG - select
   III. ACTIVITIES OF THE JWG DURING THE PERIOD 1983-90 - select
   IV. PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE (1991-98) - select
   MEMBERS OF THE JOINT WORKING GROUP - select
   APPENDIX A - select
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FULL TEXT

THE SIXTH REPORT OF THE JOINT WORKING GROUP

Introduction

    The Joint Working Group of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) joyfully celebrates its twenty five years of ecumenical endeavor. Its mandate to serve the RCC/WCC relationships was given by the Central Committee of the WCC at Enugu, Nigeria in 1965 and by the authorities of the RCC in the same year.

    Since then the Group has made five reports. They reflect the steady growth and maturing in the relations between the RCC and the WCC. The Sixth Report is prepared in a spirit of gratitude for these fruitful years. It gives an account of the activities of the Group since the last Assembly of the WCC at Vancouver in 1983. It also looks to the future with hope as the relationships continue and develop.


 

I. THE ECUMENICAL SITUATION

1. Current Development

    The life of the churches and the thrust of the ecumenical movement are affected by the situation of our world. Today there are many signs of hope for the human family, not least in places where spiritual forces have helped to break down the forces of tyranny. But we also face many grave problems which threaten the well-being of humanity and call for the concern and solidarity of all people of good will. The followers of Jesus Christ have a special duty to be fully present in the world in this time of promise and difficulty. It is a time when the ecumenical movement is more than ever necessary if the churches and Christian communities are to be a sign and seed of the unity, peace and hope which the human family needs.

    There is much room for encouragement. An increasing number of Christian communities and ecumenical organizations are active in working for unity among Christians. A number of the essential issues dividing Christians have still to be resolved, but suspicion and hostility have in large part given way to good will and mutual respect. Churches and Christians of different confessions often engage in common witness and in projects of inter-church-aid which respond to urgent human need. In a world so often marked by despair the ecumenical movement itself, as an historic effort to achieve full reconciliation among Christians, is a source of hope. The movement reaches back to the deepest spiritual roots that all Christians share and can be an answer to the spirit of secularism which marks our modern world.

    The WCC and the RCC have played an important part in the ecumenical process, not least through their Joint Working Group (JWG). The official visit of Pope John Paul II in 1984 to the WCC, as well as the visit of Dr Emilio Castro, General Secretary of the WCC, to the Holy See in 1986, have helped consolidate the relationships and the cooperation. In its letter to the Extraordinary Synod in 1985, the Central Committee of the WCC could speak of the bonds of "Fraternal Solidarity" that exist between the two partners. On important ecumenical occasions each has shared in the initiatives and events of the other. The Assisi Day of Prayer for Peace, called by Pope John Paul II in 1986, was supported by the presence of a high level delegation from the WCC. There has been notable Roman Catholic (RC) presence in the WCC Assemblies and conferences.

    So the ecumenical task has continued well. However, it has yet to reach its goal of full visible unity. The JWG still has substantial work to do. It is more than ever called to help the RCC and the WCC to strive for the unity of Christians and for the unity and solidarity of all human beings.

 

2. Patterns of Relationships Between the WCC and the RCC

    Twelve RC theologians are full members of the Faith and Order Commission.

    Seven others participate as consultants in the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). A RC representative is on the Bossey Board. For a number of years now, three Roman Catholics have worked on the WCC program staff: in CWME, Bossey and JPIC. Various forms of contact and working relationships have developed also between other WCC sub-units and Vatican offices, and missionary societies. There has been useful and continual mutual exchange of information, of newly-published documents and of staff visits.

    Catholic consultants and observers have participated in a series of WCC conferences, meetings, consultations and seminars.

    Many member churches of the WCC and the RCC have close relationships on regional and national levels in taking part in the contributing to ecumenical organizations.

 

3. Factors that Influence the Relationships

    The above-mentioned patterns are positive factors which promote ecumenical collaboration and strengthen relations not only between WCC sub-units and Vatican departments but also between WCC member churches and the RCC throughout the world. Encouraging statements about the results of this collaboration and achievement of the JWG have been made by Pope John Paul II, representatives of the WCC and leaders of local churches.

    Through the agenda of the JWG and other ecumenical endeavors, the RCC and the churches in the WCC fellowship have faced the challenges of division. They have shared in some basic theological reflections on visible unity and contributed to the process of reconciliation, renewal and growing communion. The WCC and the RCC have increased awareness of the need for mission and dialogue, for promoting the values of the Gospel in secularized societies, for Christian stewardship of creation, for furthering justice and peace, for the protection of human rights and dignity.

    The WCC member churches belong to almost all Christian traditions. They bring a variety of theological streams into the WCC, which has implications for ecumenical dialogue and collaboration.

    The diverse understanding of the ecumenical goal and of the means of achieving visible unity may affect ecumenical progress. Acts of proselytism, excessive concern for "confessional identity," lack of awareness about common problems and ecumenical tasks also affect dialogue and rapprochement. Divergencies on basic doctrinal questions, ethical, social and political issues further limit the process of advancing towards full communion and effective common action.

    The WCC and the RCC differ in their nature, their structure, their style of operation, their exercise of authority. Sometimes these differences are a hindrance to cooperation. The RCC is a universal Church with a strong hierarchical structure fostering unite in diversity. The WCC is a fellowship of autonomous churches bound together in the search for visible unity and common witness. They are not held together by canonical/structural form, but see themselves as belonging to an ecumenical fellowship which enables them to grow together.

    The ecumenical partners need to be sufficiently attentive to the use of their own press and other media in portraying the image of the "other." Likewise, more care needs to be taken in the ways the partners speak of some events in the life of the churches and their ecumenical significance.

 

 
 
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