Symposium Considers Future Steps for Ecumenism

Discuss Book Detailing 40 Years of Dialogue

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A symposium hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity brought together theologians from various churches to consider future steps for ecumenical dialogue.

A Vatican communiqué reported that the three-day symposium, which started Feb. 8, gathered theologians from the Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican and Methodist traditions at the invitation of the council's president, Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Participants discussed a book published last October, "Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue."

The book is a compilation of the results of forty years of bilateral dialogues between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Anglican Communion and the World Methodist Council.

The council noted that it also "raises important questions for the future direction and content of ecumenical discussion."

The symposium aimed not only "to take account of the many elements of agreement produced by forty years of official dialogue, but to consider ways of communicating this remarkable achievement to the members of all the various Christian communities," the council stated.

It expressed the hope that in this way, the communities can demonstrate "more fully in their lives the progress towards unity that has been made."

The theologians made a "detailed examination of the question of reception of joint statements and agreements, the need for the common witness of Christians at every level, and the changed context in which Christianity must undertake its mission."

They also discussed how ecumenical dialogue should take place in the future, and what steps should be made toward the goal of "full and visible communion."

Communion

Cardinal Kasper said to the participants: "What does communion mean in the theological sense?

"It does not mean community in the horizontal sense but 'communio sanctorum' -- what we might call vertical participation in what is 'holy,' in the 'holy things' -- that is, the Spirit of Christ present in his Word and in the sacraments administered by ministers […] duly ordained."

The meeting participants "explored how traditional disagreements might be reassessed if they are looked at in the context of mission and the vision of God's kingdom."

They spoke about ecumenical dialogue in terms of a "new and promising approach," in which it is viewed "as an exchange of gifts."

The theologians also discussed "practical proposals to encourage the search for unity, most particularly the production of a Common Statement of what we have achieved ecumenically."

The council suggested that one possibility for the form of this statement could be a "common affirmation of baptismal faith, including a commentary on the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer."

The symposium included people who are experienced in dialogue, as well as "younger theologians new to ecumenism."

"The many positive suggestions that it produced will be taken forward to the plenary of the Pontifical Council in November 2010," the communiqué noted.

It added that the participants "affirmed that the ability to call together meetings of this nature is a particular potential of Rome, indicating the wider service that the Petrine ministry can offer to ecumenism."

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