Beginning of Ecumenical Friendships Lauded at Reception

Augustin Cardinal Bea urged observer-delegates of other Christian churches attending the Second Vatican Council not only to follow the work of the council “with calmness and serenity, supernatural charity and trust,” but also to speak out confidently when they disagree.

The head of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity spoke at a formal reception for the observers given by his secretariat at Unitas House, Rome center for ecumenical contacts. Acting as hosts with him at the Sept. 18 reception were archbishops and bishops who are members of the unity secretariat, including Paolo Cardinal Marella, also president of the Vatican secretariat for relations with non-Christians; Lorenz Cardinal Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany; and Joseph Cardinal Martin of Rouen, France.

The formal reply to Cardinal Bea’s speech was given on behalf of the other observers by the Rev. Douglas Horton of Randolph, N.H., who is both former moderator of the International Congregational Council and former dean of the Harvard University Divinity School. Dr. Horton has attended all four sessions of the ecumenical council as observer for the Congregationalist body.

He began by thanking Cardinal Bea for opening so many doors to the observers, not only the doors of St. Peter’s, he said, but the doors of friendship as well.

“There are a few differences of theology and polity which have developed between the Roman Church and the rest of us during the centuries in which we have been studying how to keep separate,” Dr. Horton noted in a jocular vein. “We shall have to trust the generations, not to say centuries, to come to give us the opportunity to resolve them.” He then said:

“It is evident to all that thanks to the friendship you have shown us, the ground is now laid out of which reconciliation can grow.

“As a theologian you may call friendship a non-theological factor. But theological or not, friendship must have a part to play in the future of the Church. The historian can easily show that unhappy non-theological factors went into the great divisions of the Church — economic and political rivalries and the like — and if that is the case, then the happy non-theological factor of friendship can play its part in the reintegration of Christendom.”

Then he said to Cardinal Bea and the other members of the unity secretariat:

“Because you have made us your friends, nothing important to you can be unimportant to us: We shall never again be indifferent, however we may disagree, with anything in your theology, your polity, your liturgy. Let this relationship of simple human friendship be carried from the center you have created here to the boundaries of Christendom and we have at least the beginning of ecumenism.”

Cardinal Bea in his welcoming speech, urging the observers of the other Christian Churches and associations to speak out when they find fault with projected council stands, referred to the closing days of the council session last fall. Admitting probable difficulties and even actual disillusion resulting from last-minute changes in the council’s ecumenical decree before it was enacted, he said: “Many important forward steps in the ecumenical field have been possible nonetheless.”

He cited the many visits between representatives of the Holy See of Rome and the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and also the creation of joint ecumenical commissions representing the Holy See and the World Council of Churches and the Holy See and the Lutheran World Federation.

“Ever-present difficulties,” Cardinal Bea told the observers, “are in fact the instrument with which God wishes to show that results come from Him and not from men, so that nobody — as St. Paul says — can boast before God. The difficulties also put to the test the authenticity and the solidarity of our trust in God and our charity as well.

“Confronted and overcome in this spirit, difficulties become a means better to bind the ties of charity in Christ in order to increase the love of unity among all who believe in Christ, and to consolidate in them mutual charity.

“Difficulties will not be lacking in this session either,” Cardinal Bea continued. “We need think only of the number and importance of the schemas awaiting completion, some of which have profound implications for the ecumenical movement.”

In his talk, the German-born Jesuit cardinal voiced particular satisfaction in the growth not only in the number of churches and church federations represented, but also at the number of individual observer-delegates and guests. He noted that the number of Church bodies represented has grown to 28 from last year’s 23.

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