Draft of Decree on Ecumenism Urges Catholics to Work for Unity

The ecumenical council’s draft decree on ecumenism urges all Catholics to heed this era’s divinely inspired efforts among virtually all Christians to achieve that full unity willed by Christ. It urges Catholic Bishops everywhere to promote this ecumenism diligently and guide it wisely.

(No direct quotations from the document were available because it is still under council secrecy.)

The draft says that God speaks to Catholics through their separated brethren. This seems to echo the saying of St. Anselm that came readily to the pen of St. Thomas Aquinas: Every truth, wherever it is found or whoever utters it, comes from the Holy Ghost.

The draft also says that the first duty of Catholics toward the ecumenical movement is to be better Catholics. This seems to echo the saying of St. John Chrysostom which the late Pope John XXIII called the keynote of his pontificate: If we lived like Christians, there would be no pagans.

It calls on Catholics to cooperate with others in remedying the evils of our times.

Without speaking of Protestant bodies as Churches, it says that some of the elements that go to make up the Catholic Church can be found within them. It mentions the life of grace and other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, faith, hope and charity; some visible elements that help to show the Church’s unity, and Christian rites that can surely produce a true life of grace.

All baptized Christians are sons of the Church, the draft says.

Catholics should, for their own enrichment, gladly recognize the authentic goods of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be found among the separated brothers, the draft says.

It does not try to define the ecumenical movement because it is a movement, and consequently difficult to explain precisely. The draft contents itself with a description of ecumenism.

The draft is divided into five chapters. The first deals with the principles of ecumenism; the second with ecumenism in practice; the third with separated Eastern Churches and, in a separate section, with Protestants; the fourth is on the Jews; and the last chapter is on religious liberty.

The draft makes it clear that the ecumenical movement got underway with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It urges, within the Catholic family itself, a proper liberty in various forms of spiritual life, in the liturgy and in the presentation of theological truth.

This liberty will make the Church’s genuine catholicity more obvious and will open the door of the Church wider to all, it says.

The draft was forged from three documents originally prepared by three different council preparatory bodies: the Commission for Eastern Churches, the Theological Commission, and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. The preparatory commissions were succeeded by council commissions, and the two, with the unity secretariat, took part in drawing up the new draft through a mixed commission.

The last chapter, on religious liberty, cleared what was regarded as the last major hurdle on Nov. 12 when it was approved by the members of the Theological Commission.

While the draft does not speak of Protestant bodies as Churches, it does point to their open confession of Christ, their zeal for Holy Scripture and their Baptism — bond of unity among all Christians, but just a beginning of the bond of full unity which is found in a complete confession of Faith and in Eucharistic Communion.

The draft mentions their Christian community life, fostered by belief in Christ, belief in Holy Writ, and Baptism.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome correspondent

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