Aug 13, 2008, 5:08 AM
This unity was pronounced as: “all in each place who are baptized into Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord and Saviour are brought by the Holy Spirit into one fully committed fellowship, holding the one fully committed fellowship, holding the one apostolic faith, preaching the one Gospel, breaking the one bread, joining in common prayer, and having a corporate life reaching out in witness and service to all and who at the same time are united with the whole Christian fellowship in all places and all ages, in such wise that ministry and members are accepted by all, and that can act and speak together as occasion requires for the tasks to which God calls his people”.
The Roman Catholic Church around this period of the early 1960’s were not left out.The Church was about to enter into the ecumenical movement officially but was stopped by Pope Pius XI for fear of “religious indifferentism”.Some Catholics despite this ban engaged in “spiritual ecumenism” of prayer for Christian Unity as Christ had willed.The emergence of the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965) brought in a new Catholic thrust as a lot of developments occurred in studies on the Bible, the patristic and liturgy.The Council through the blessing of Pope John XXIII came up with a special decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio following the establishment of the Secretariat for promoting Christian Unity.This made the Catholic Church a prominent participant in the modern ecumenical movement.Even though the Catholic Church decided against membership of World Council of Churches, a joint working group was formed in which Catholic theologians were appointed to the Faith and Order Commission.They played an important role in the elaboration of the “convergence document”, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982).The spirit which guided the Roman
Catholic ecumenism occasioned the development of bilateral dialogue withChurches and even other faiths.The present Supreme Pontiff, the Pope of our times, the most traveled missionary of our times, Pope John Paul II wrote a special encyclical in 1995, i.e. Ut Unum Sint (that they may be one).In this encyclical he affirms the Catholic Church’s irrevocable commitment to the ecumenical cause, which he described as the restoration of visible unity, in obedience to the will of the Lord, for the sake of a more credible witness to the gospel of reconciliation.This pope that walked in the soil of The Gambia on 23rd February 1992 recognized a certain “growth in communion” among all the Christian Communities.He called for persistence in prayer, which he described as the “soul” of ecumenical renewal and for dialogue centered on “fundamental importance” of doctrine.
IV.THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION FOR ECUMENISM:
In his noble text of Ut Unum Sit, Pope John Paul II states, “Together with all Christ’s disciples, the Catholic Church bases upon God’s plan her ecumenical commitment to gather all Christians into unity”.Under this section I also follow the injunctions of Pope John Paul II to state that in all things God has a plan to save mankind and one way is through the unity of all Christians.Thus from the Scriptures and teachings of the Church we shall explore what this means.
The Bible is one of the most important sources for the basis of Christian Unity and Ecumenism.All God’s people take recourse to it since God speaks to them through the sacred scripture and they find what brings their salvation.As we attest to this we also acknowledge that the Bible is the word of God as revealed in Jesus )Jn. 1:1-4) who is the foundation of all Christians.In the Old Testament especially in the book of Gen. 1:26-28, God created humankind and willed that they may be united as God made them in his image and likeness.Also when God entered into a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:1-14) he did it for the purpose of having a people belonging to him, united in faith, purpose and aim.In a bid to preserve God’s divine intention, the people entered into dialogue with Moses, their leader and mediator before God (Deut. 7:6, 14:2, 26:18) who spoke to God on their behalf and led them in God’s ways to the promised land.In the book of
Psalms, the ideal life in God is unity and hence the Psalmist recites “how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity.It is like fine oil poured in the head and running down on Aaron’s beard, and over the color of his robes.It is like dew on Mount Hermonwhich comes down on Mount Zion”.(Ps. 133) Unity among God’s people is good and fine.
The new testament also is another reliable source through which we have a basis for Ecumenism.In Jn. 17:21, Jesus explains the paramount importance and necessity of unity of faith among those who follow him.As the true shepherd of his flock his ambition is to have his flock follow him.As the true shepherd of his flock his ambition is to have his flock drawn to himself as one (Jn. 10:14-16, 11:52) apart from Jn. St. Luke also has a reference of Jesus’ ecumenical commitment.In Luke 9:49-50, the apostle John had reported to Jesus that the disciples saw some casting out demons in Jesus’ name and they tried to stop him because he was not one of them.Jesus in turn retorted and said, “do not stop him for he who is not against you is for you”.
In his epistles, St Paul equally expresses the importance of the theme of unity among the early Christian Communities.Unity for him among Christians is a vocation meant to be wherever disunity is prevalent.In Acts 15, the Council at Jerusalem showed this call that the Christians had to come together in unity to strengthen one another in faith and in truth.
Having viewed from Biblical point of view the Church also in its teachings under the Magisterium expressed the unity needed in the Church.During the Patristic era, ecumenism was not a subject of discussion but the unity of Christians was a value and virtue sort for.They safeguarded the integrity of the Church through their teachings against schisms, apostasies, and heresies of the time.This led to the condemnation of the Arinans and Donatists of the fourth century.Fathers like Tertullian and Augustine in their time affirmed that, “there is one God, one baptism and one church in heaven”.Also Cyprian asserts:” God is one and Christ is one, and one is His church.The church fathers
saw and defined the church as one and founded by Jesus Christ under one faith one communion and one salvation.