New Emphasis on Ecumenism Must Not Destroy Evangelization, Says Cardinal Suenens

The Church must walk with two legs — one ecumenism and the other evangelization — Leo Cardinal Suenens of Malines-Brussels told a press conference here.

Speaking on the coming council proposition on the missions, the cardinal pointed out that it must balance extensive talk thus far on ecumenism. Cardinal Suenens, one of the four council moderators, said:

“We discussed ecumenism at length. But the ecumenical approach is one-sided — an attempt to know each other better without the intention of conversion. We cannot, however, say conversion is no longer the duty of the Church. On the contrary, we must bring Christ to the whole world and this duty cannot be destroyed by ecumenical dialogues.”

Ecumenism might give rise to the idea that now the Church should leave everyone to follow his own conscience, the cardinal said.

“Christ did not say this. He said to bring the Gospel to every creature — but with kindness. The priority of evangelization must be stressed, since this is what Christ wishes ‘impatiently,’ since love is impatient to communicate itself.”

The cardinal said another coming council proposition, the one on seminaries and ecclesiastical formation, should be widened to include Religious scholasticates and even Sister formation centers. He said he would propose a new idea of seminaries based on the original idea of St. Charles Borromeo at the Council of Trent (1545-63), where seminary training was first formulated.

“Today the moment has arrived for a soulful examination,” he said. “The Second Vatican Council must create a new kind of seminary in line with the needs of today. If there is one place where Pope John’s updating is needed, it is here.”

Using the new seminary in his own diocese as a pattern, he described his hopes. The new seminary should deal with the problems facing priests of today, who feel they are isolated from the current of the modern world as well as from the company of their fellow priests and even from God.

This last is true, he said, because seminary spirituality is not in line with the needs of the priest working in the world but is based more on monastic spirituality. He called for the formulation of a spirituality for an active life and said that unity between prayer and the apostolate is essential today.

“We must never stop stressing the need for prayer — but never in such a way that it is in opposition to the apostolate,” he said. “The first 30 years of Christ’s life were not contemplative. They were spent in normal labor. Contemplative preparation for the active ministry lasted 40 days, when Christ went into the desert.”

Cardinal Suenens called for pastoral training throughout the seminary course, including active work among the laity. Since the priest today has a new dimension in serving the people of God, he said, “He has to learn how to pray, not instead of the people of God but at their head. The priest must learn to help the laity fulfill their apostolic mission.”

Regarding the necessity of practical seminary training, the cardinal observed, “you need a swimming pool to learn how to swim.” He suggested that seminarians spend two or three hours a week in active work under the guidance of pastoral experts and make reports on successes and failures. He added:

“An assignment of responsibility from the start is essential.”

Speaking of a third document awaiting discussion by the council, the one on Religious, he said: “There is not much here on aggiornamento (updating).”

He called for putting Religious women on the same footing as Religious men and asked that “these million souls given to God must be used in a much more efficient way. Today women are ready to go to the moon. Why should they not be on the same footing of equality with men?”

Father John P. Donnelly
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

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