Indice > Dialoghi Interconfessionali > PE-RC > Perspectives on Koinonia (part V)


  INTRODUCTION - selezionare
V. Koinonia And The Communion Of The Saints
  CONCLUSION - selez.
  APPENDIX - selez.

V. Koinonia and the Communion of the Saints

A) The Church as "Communio Sanctorum"

  1. God calls us into communion with Himself (communio with the Holy One), into communion in the Body and Blood of Christ (communio in sanctis), and into communion between Christians (fellowship of the saints: communio sanctorum). In the Nicene Creed, the phrase communio sanctorum has eschatological significance: the saints on earth and those in heaven, marked by the same Spirit, are a single Body.

  2. In terms of the sharing in holy things (communio in sanctis), for Roman Catholics participation in baptism, confirmation and Eucharist is constitutive of the Church. For Pentecostals, the central element of worship is the preaching of the Word. As persons respond to the proclamation of the Word, the Spirit gives them a new birth, which is a pre-sacramental experience, thereby making them Christians and in this sense creating the Church. Of secondary importance are participation in baptism and the Lord's Supper, spontaneous exercise of the charismata and the sharing of personal testimonies.

  3. Pentecostals would like Catholics to share more among themselves the private devotional reading of the Scriptures. Pentecostals ask Roman Catholics whether they could not deepen the experiential dimension of koinonia through spontaneous exercise of the gifts and the sharing of personal testimonies. Convinced that Word and Sacrament cannot be separated in worship, Catholics ask Pentecostal to re-examine the dynamic relationship between these two in the celebration of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

  4. The relation between koinonia, sacraments and church order (see above 81-89) explains why both the sharing in the same eucharistic faith, and also in full communion are normal prerequisites for receiving the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church. Since for Catholics the Eucharist is essential and central in the life of the Church, participation in the eucharist means and requires unity of faith. Catholics would like to see Pentecostals express clearly what is required for full communion in their churches.

  5. According to the Roman Catholic view, the communio sanctorum includes a relationship to all the holy ones of God, the saints on earth and also the saints in heaven. Members of the Church are given koinonia in the very holiness of God. As a result, they form "a great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) a "great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues" (Rev 7:9).

  6. In Roman Catholic faith and practice, God alone is the object of worship (latria). However, veneration (doulia) is given to saints who have "run the race" "finished the course" and have received "a crown of life." It is also important to realize that no Catholic has an obligation jure divino of venerating either relics, icons, or saints. While this kind of devotion is not necessary for salvation, the Church recognizes the usefulness of such forms of devotion, recommends them to its members, and resists any condemnation or contempt of such practices (cf. Council of Trent, session 25).

  7. Pentecostals find reassuring the stress in Roman Catholic theology that worship belongs only to God. It is, however, the Pentecostal teaching that the unique mediatorial role of Christ positively excludes veneration of relics, icons, and saints. Pentecostals do, however, affirm that in their worship the earthly saints join in worship with saints in heaven and with them comprise the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. As the Scripture says: "we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," (Heb 12:1) who have lived in history from the beginning of God's dealing with the human race.
B) Holiness, Repentance and Ministry in History
  1. All the baptised are called to be "saints," and indeed, according to Scripture, they called themselves such in the early church (e.g., Acts 9:13; 26:10; Rom 15:25-26; 2 Cor 8:4; 9:1. etc.).

  2. We agree that because of sin, the Church is always in need of repentance. It is at once holy and in need of purification. The Church is a "holy penitent," and is ever in need of renewal both in its persons and in its structures. Both Catholics and Pentecostals recognize the fact that their respective theologies of koinonia are all too seldom reflected in the empirical reality of the life in their respective communities.

  3. Both sides of this dialogue agree on the fundamental demands for holiness in the minister and agree that the unworthiness of a minister does not invalidate the work of the Holy Spirit. For Roman Catholics, God's acts in the sacraments are effective because they are based on God's faithfulness. They believe that the Holy Spirit works with consistency in ministering to those who come in faith. The Church gives serious attention to Church discipline because human weakness and sin can become obstacles to the effectiveness of ministry. Pentecostals, too, believe that God can work through the ministers of the Word of God in spite of their grave failures and sin in their lives. "Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will... What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed: in that I rejoice" (Phil 1:15,18). Pentecostals also believe that the ordinances administered by an unworthy minister are valid (in the sense that, for instance, baptism need not be repeated). Together we believe, however, that the unworthiness of ministers is often a stumbling block which prevents non-believers from coming to faith in a true and living God, and it frequently hinders the work of the Spirit in the believing community.

  4. Although Pentecostals stress the freedom of the Spirit to act in the community and emphasize the need for active participation of all members of the Church, they do acknowledge the necessity of church order. They affirm church order (which can legitimately take different forms) as the will of the Lord for his Church, since they observe from the New Testament that the earliest Church has not "been without persons holding specific authority and responsibility" (BEM, Ministry, 9) (cf. Acts 14:23; 20:17; Phil 1:1). Since Pentecostals do not reject ecclesial institutions, they recognize that the Spirit operates not only through charismatic individuals, but also through the permanent ministries of the Church.

  5. There is agreement that the offices and structures of the Church, as indeed every aspect of the Church, are in a continual need of renewal insofar as they are institutions of men and women here on earth. This presumes that the Spirit can breathe new life into the Church's offices and structures when these become "dry bones" (Ez 37). This on-going effort at renewal has important ecumenical implications. This is an essential dynamism of "the movement toward unity" of the People of God (Unitatis redintegratio, §6).

  6. Pentecostals and Roman Catholics appear to view the history of the Church quite differently. The members of this dialogue believe that the differences in these perspectives deserve further mutual exploration. Both Pentecostals and Roman Catholics recognize that continuity in history by itself is no guarantee of spiritual maturity or of doctrinal soundness. Increasingly both traditions are coming to share a genuine appreciation for the value which church history reveals to them today.

  7. Roman Catholics believe that the contemporary Church is in continuity with the Church in the New Testament. Pentecostals, influenced by restorationist perspectives, have claimed continuity with the Church in the New Testament by arguing for discontinuity with much of the historical Church. By adopting these two positions, one of continuity, the other of discontinuity, each tradition has attempted to demonstrate its faithfulness to the apostolic faith "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The significance of this for the welfare of the whole Church urges upon us the need of further common theological reflection on the history of the Church.

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