Ut unum sint - Ioannes Paulus PP. II - Encyclical Letter (1995.05.25)



      Ioannes Paulus PP. II

      Ut unum sint

      On commitment to Ecumenism









      1. Ut unum sint! The call for Christian unity made by the Second Vatican

      Ecumenical Council with such impassioned commitment is finding an ever

      greater echo in the hearts of believers, especially as the Year 2000

      approaches, a year which Christians will celebrate as a sacred Jubilee,

      the commemoration of the Incarnation of the Son of God, who became man in

      order to save humanity.

      The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including

      members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with

      the Catholic Church, gives new vigour to the Council's call and reminds us

      of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation. These

      brothers and sisters of ours, united in the selfless offering of their

      lives for the Kingdom of God, are the most powerful proof that every

      factor of division can be transcended and overcome in the total gift of

      self for the sake of the Gospel.

      Christ calls all his disciples to unity. My earnest desire is to renew

      this call today, to propose it once more with determination, repeating

      what I said at the Roman Colosseum on Good Friday 1994, at the end of the

      meditation on the Via Crucis prepared by my Venerable Brother Bartholomew,

      the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. There I stated that believers

      in Christ, united in following in the footsteps of the martyrs, cannot

      remain divided. If they wish truly and effectively to oppose the world's

      tendency to reduce to powerlessness the Mystery of Redemption, they must

      profess together the same truth about the Cross.1 The Cross! An

      anti-Christian outlook seeks to minimize the Cross, to empty it of its

      meaning, and to deny that in it man has the source of his new life. It

      claims that the Cross is unable to provide either vision or hope. Man, it

      says, is nothing but an earthly being, who must live as if God did not


      2. No one is unaware of the challenge which all this poses to believers.

      They cannot fail to meet this challenge. Indeed, how could they refuse to

      do everything possible, with God's help, to break down the walls of

      division and distrust, to overcome obstacles and prejudices which thwart

      the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in the Cross of Jesus, the one

      Redeemer of man, of every individual?

      I thank the Lord that he has led us to make progress along the path of

      unity and communion between Christians, a path difficult but so full of

      joy. Interconfessional dialogues at the theological level have produced

      positive and tangible results: this encourages us to move forward.

      Nevertheless, besides the doctrinal differences needing to be resolved,

      Christians cannot underestimate the burden of long-standing misgivings

      inherited from the past, and of mutual misunderstandings and prejudices.

      Complacency, indifference and insufficient knowledge of one another often

      make this situation worse. Consequently, the commitment to ecumenism must

      be based upon the conversion of hearts and upon prayer, which will also

      lead to the necessary purification of past memories. With the grace of the

      Holy Spirit, the Lord's disciples, inspired by love, by the power of the

      truth and by a sincere desire for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation,

      are called to re-examine together their painful past and the hurt which

      that past regrettably continues to provoke even today. All together, they

      are invited by the ever fresh power of the Gospel to acknowledge with

      sincere and total objectivity the mistakes made and the contingent factors

      at work at the origins of their deplorable divisions. What is needed is a

      calm, clear-sighted and truthful vision of things, a vision enlivened by

      divine mercy and capable of freeing people's minds and of inspiring in

      everyone a renewed willingness, precisely with a view to proclaiming the

      Gospel to the men and women of every people and nation.

      3. At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church committed herself

      irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture, thus heeding

      the Spirit of the Lord, who teaches people to interpret carefully the

      "signs of the times" . The experiences of these years have made the Church

      even more profoundly aware of her identity and her mission in history. The

      Catholic Church acknowledges and confesses the weaknesses of her members,

      conscious that their sins are so many betrayals of and obstacles to the

      accomplishment of the Saviour's plan. Because she feels herself constantly

      called to be renewed in the spirit of the Gospel, she does not cease to do

      penance. At the same time, she acknowledges and exalts still more the

      power of the Lord, who fills her with the gift of holiness, leads her

      forward, and conforms her to his Passion and Resurrection.

      Taught by the events of her history, the Church is committed to freeing

      herself from every purely human support, in order to live in depth the

      Gospel law of the Beatitudes. Conscious that the truth does not impose

      itself except "by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into

      the mind at once quietly and with power",2 she seeks nothing for herself

      but the freedom to proclaim the Gospel. Indeed, her authority is exercised

      in the service of truth and charity.

      I myself intend to promote every suitable initiative aimed at making the

      witness of the entire Catholic community understood in its full purity and

      consistency, especially considering the engagement which awaits the Church

      at the threshold of the new Millennium. That will be an exceptional

      occasion, in view of which she asks the Lord to increase the unity of all

      Christians until they reach full communion.3 The present Encyclical Letter

      is meant as a contribution to this most noble goal. Essentially pastoral

      in character, it seeks to encourage the efforts of all who work for the

      cause of unity.

      4. This is a specific duty of the Bishop of Rome as the Successor of the

      Apostle Peter. I carry out this duty with the profound conviction that I

      am obeying the Lord, and with a clear sense of my own human frailty.

      Indeed, if Christ himself gave Peter this special mission in the Church

      and exhorted him to strengthen his brethren, he also made clear to him his

      human weakness and his special need of conversion: "And when you have

      turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:32). It is precisely in

      Peter's human weakness that it becomes fully clear that the Pope, in order

      to carry out this special ministry in the Church, depends totally on the

      Lord's grace and prayer: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not

      fail" (Lk 22:32). The conversion of Peter and that of his Successors is

      upheld by the very prayer of the Redeemer, and the Church constantly makes

      this petition her own. In our ecumenical age, marked by the Second Vatican

      Council, the mission of the Bishop of Rome is particularly directed to

      recalling the need for full communion among Christ's disciples.

      The Bishop of Rome himself must fervently make his own Christ's prayer for

      that conversion which is indispensable for "Peter" to be able to serve his

      brethren. I earnestly invite the faithful of the Catholic Church and all

      Christians to share in this prayer. May all join me in praying for this


      We know that during her earthly pilgrimage the Church has suffered and

      will continue to suffer opposition and persecution. But the hope which

      sustains her is unshakable, just as the joy which flows from this hope is

      indestructible. In effect, the firm and enduring rock upon which she is

      founded is Jesus Christ, her Lord.



      God's plan and communion

      5. Together with all Christ's disciples, the Catholic Church bases upon

      God's plan her ecumenical commitment to gather all Christians into unity.

      Indeed, "the Church is not a reality closed in on herself. Rather, she is

      permanently open to missionary and ecumenical endeavour, for she is sent

      to the world to announce and witness, to make present and spread the

      mystery of communion which is essential to her, and to gather all people

      and all things into Christ, so as to be for all an 'inseparable sacrament

      of unity' ".4

      Already in the Old Testament, the Prophet Ezekiel, referring to the

      situation of God's People at that time, and using the simple sign of two

      broken sticks which are first divided and then joined together, expressed

      the divine will to "gather from all sides" the members of his scattered

      people. "I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the

      nations will know that I the Lord sanctify Israel" (cf. 37:16-28). The

      Gospel of John, for its part, considering the situation of the People of

      God at the time it was written, sees in Jesus' death the reason for the

      unity of God's children: "Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the

      nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered

      abroad" (11:51-52). Indeed, as the Letter to the Ephesians explains, Jesus

      "broke down the dividing wall of hostility ... through the Cross, thereby

      bringing the hostility to an end"; in place of what was divided he brought

      about unity (cf. 2:14-16).

      6. The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God. For this reason

      he sent his Son, so that by dying and rising for us he might bestow on us

      the Spirit of love. On the eve of his sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus

      himself prayed to the Father for his disciples and for all those who

      believe in him, that theymight be one, a living communion. This is the

      basis not only of the duty, but also of the responsibility before God and

      his plan, which falls to those who through Baptism become members of the

      Body of Christ, a Body in which the fullness of reconciliation and

      communion must be made present. How is it possible to remain divided, if

      we have been "buried" through Baptism in the Lord's death, in the very act

      by which God, through the death of his Son, has broken down the walls of

      division? Division "openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a

      stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause

      of proclaiming the Good News to every creature".5

      The way of ecumenism: the way of the Church

      7. "The Lord of the Ages wisely and patiently follows out the plan of his

      grace on behalf of us sinners. In recent times he has begun to bestow more

      generously upon divided Christians remorse over their divisions and a

      longing for unity. Everywhere, large numbers have felt the impulse of this

      grace, and among our separated brethren also there increases from day to

      day a movement, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the

      restoration of unity among all Christians. Taking part in this movement,

      which is called ecumenical, are those who invoke the Triune God and

      confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They join in not merely as individuals

      but also as members of the corporate groups in which they have heard the

      Gospel, and which each regards as his Church and, indeed, God's. And yet

      almost everyone, though in different ways, longs that there may be one

      visible Church of God, a Church truly universal and sent forth to the

      whole world that the world may be converted to the Gospel and so be saved,

      to the glory of God".6

      8. This statement of the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio is to be read in

      the context of the complete teaching of the Second Vatican Council. The

      Council expresses the Church's decision to take up the ecumenical task of

      working for Christian unity and to propose it with conviction and vigour:

      "This sacred Synod exhorts all the Catholic faithful to recognize the

      signs of the times and to participate actively in the work of ecumenism".7

      In indicating the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the Decree Unitatis

      Redintegratio recalls above all the teaching on the Church set forth in

      the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium in its chapter on the People of

      God.8 At the same time, it takes into account everything affirmed in the

      Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae.9

      The Catholic Church embraces with hope the commitment to ecumenism as a

      duty of the Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love.

      Here too we can apply the words of Saint Paul to the first Christians of

      Rome: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy

      Spirit"; thus our "hope does not disappoint us" (Rom 5:5). This is the

      hope of Christian unity, which has its divine source in the Trinitarian

      unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

      9. Jesus himself, at the hour of his Passion, prayed "that they may all be

      one" (Jn 17:21). This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and

      in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but

      stands at the very heart of Christ's mission. Nor is it some secondary

      attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the

      very essence of this community. God wills the Church, because he wills

      unity, and unity is an expression of the whole depth of his agape.

      In effect, this unity bestowed by the Holy Spirit does not merely consist

      in the gathering of people as a collection of individuals. It is a unity

      constituted by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments and

      hierarchical communion.10 The faithful are one because, in the Spirit,

      they are in communion with the Son and, in him, share in his communion

      with the Father: "Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus

      Christ" (1 Jn 1:3). For the Catholic Church, then, thecommunion of

      Christians is none other than the manifestation in them of the grace by

      which God makes them sharers in his own communion, which is his eternal

      life. Christ's words "that they may be one" are thus his prayer to the

      Father that the Father's plan may be fully accomplished, in such a way

      that everyone may clearly see "what is the plan of the mystery hidden for

      ages in God who created all things" (Eph 3:9). To believe in Christ means

      to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the

      Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the

      Father's plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ's prayer:

      "Ut unum sint".

      10. In the present situation of the lack of unity among Christians and of

      the confident quest for full communion, the Catholic faithful are

      conscious of being deeply challenged by the Lord of the Church. The Second

      Vatican Council strengthened their commitment with a clear ecclesiological

      vision, open to all the ecclesial values present among other Christians.

      The Catholic faithful face the ecumenical question in a spirit of faith.

      The Council states that the Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic

      Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in

      communion with him", and at the same time acknowledges that "many elements

      of sanctification and of truth can be found outside her visible structure.

      These elements, however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of

      Christ, possess an inner dynamism towards Catholic unity".11

      "It follows that these separated Churches and Communities, though we

      believe that they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of

      significance and value in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of

      Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which

      derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted

      to the Catholic Church".12

      11. The Catholic Church thus affirms that during the two thousand years of

      her history she has been preserved in unity, with all the means with which

      God wishes to endow his Church, and this despite the often grave crises

      which have shaken her, the infidelity of some of her ministers, and the

      faults into which her members daily fall. The Catholic Church knows that,

      by virtue of the strength which comes to her from the Spirit, the

      weaknesses, mediocrity, sins and at times the betrayals of some of her

      children cannot destroy what God has bestowed on her as part of his plan

      of grace. Moreover, "the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Mt

      16:18). Even so, the Catholic Church does not forget that many among her

      members cause God's plan to be discernible only with difficulty. Speaking

      of the lack of unity among Christians, the Decree on Ecumenism does not

      ignore the fact that "people of both sides were to blame",13 and

      acknowledges that responsibility cannot be attributed only to the "other

      side". By God's grace, however, neither what belongs to the structure of

      the Church of Christ nor that communion which still exists with the other

      Churches and Ecclesial Communities has been destroyed.

      Indeed, the elements of sanctification and truth present in the other

      Christian Communities, in a degree which varies from one to the other,

      constitute the objective basis of the communion, albeit imperfect, which

      exists between them and the Catholic Church.

      To the extent that these elements are found in other Christian

      Communities, the one Church of Christ is effectively present in them. For

      this reason the Second Vatican Council speaks of a certain, though

      imperfect communion. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium stresses that

      the Catholic Church "recognizes that in many ways she is linked" 14 with

      these Communities by a true union in the Holy Spirit.

      12. The same Dogmatic Constitution listed at length "the elements of

      sanctification and truth" which in various ways are present and operative

      beyond the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: "For there are many

      who honour Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and of action,

      and who show a true religious zeal. They lovingly believe in God the

      Father Almighty and in Christ, Son of God and Saviour. They are

      consecrated by Baptism, through which they are united with Christ. They

      also recognize and receive other sacraments within their own Churches or

      Ecclesial Communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate

      the Holy Eucharist, and cultivate devotion towards the Virgin Mother of

      God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits.

      Likewise, we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the

      Holy Spirit, for to them also he gives his gifts and graces, and is

      thereby operative among them with his sanctifying power. Some indeed he

      has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of

      Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united,

      in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd".15

      The Council's Decree on Ecumenism, referring to the Orthodox Churches,

      went so far as to declare that "through the celebration of the Eucharist

      of the Lord in each of these Churches, the Church of God is built up and

      grows in stature".16 Truth demands that all this be recognized.

      13. The same Document carefully draws out the doctrinal implications of

      this situation. Speaking of the members of these Communities, it declares:

      "All those justified by faith through Baptism are incorporated into

      Christ. They therefore have a right to be honoured by the title of

      Christian, and are properly regarded as brothers and sisters in the Lord

      by the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church".17

      With reference to the many positive elements present in the other Churches

      and Ecclesial Communities, the Decree adds: "All of these, which come from

      Christ and lead back to him, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

      The separated brethren also carry out many of the sacred actions of the

      Christian religion. Undoubtedly, in many ways that vary according to the

      condition of each Church or Community, these actions can truly engender a

      life of grace, and can be rightly described as capable of providing access

      to the community of salvation".18

      These are extremely important texts for ecumenism. It is not that beyond

      the boundaries of the Catholic community there is an ecclesial vacuum.

      Many elements of great value (eximia), which in the Catholic Church are

      part of the fullness of the means of salvation and of the gifts of grace

      which make up the Church, are also found in the other Christian


      14. All these elements bear within themselves a tendency towards unity,

      having their fullness in that unity. It is not a matter of adding together

      all the riches scattered throughout the various Christian Communities in

      order to arrive at a Church which God has in mind for the future. In

      accordance with the great Tradition, attested to by the Fathers of the

      East and of the West, the Catholic Church believes that in the Pentecost

      Event God has already manifested the Church in her eschatological reality,

      which he had prepared "from the time of Abel, the just one".19 This

      reality is something already given. Consequently we are even now in the

      last times. The elements of this already-given Church exist, found in

      their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the

      other Communities,20 where certain features of the Christian mystery have

      at times been more effectively emphasized. Ecumenism is directed precisely

      to making the partial communion existing between Christians grow towards

      full communion in truth and charity.

      Renewal and conversion

      15. Passing from principles, from the obligations of the Christian

      conscience, to the actual practice of the ecumenical journey towards

      unity, the Second Vatican Council emphasizes above all the need for

      interior conversion. The messianic proclamation that "the time is

      fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand", and the subsequent call to

      "repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15) with which Jesus begins his

      mission, indicate the essential element of every new beginning: the

      fundamental need for evangelization at every stage of the Church's journey

      of salvation. This is true in a special way of the process begun by the

      Second Vatican Council, when it indicated as a dimension of renewal the

      ecumenical task of uniting divided Christians. "There can be no ecumenism

      worthy of the name without a change of heart".21

      The Council calls for personal conversion as well as for communal

      conversion. The desire of every Christian Community for unity goes hand in

      hand with its fidelity to the Gospel. In the case of individuals who live

      their Christian vocation, the Council speaks of interior conversion, of a

      renewal of mind.22

      Each one therefore ought to be more radically converted to the Gospel and,

      without ever losing sight of God's plan, change his or her way of looking

      at things. Thanks to ecumenism, our contemplation of "the mighty works of

      God" (mirabilia Dei) has been enriched by new horizons, for which the

      Triune God calls us to give thanks: the knowledge that the Spirit is at

      work in other Christian Communities, the discovery of examples of

      holiness, the experience of the immense riches present in the communion of

      saints, and contact with unexpected dimensions of Christian commitment. In

      a corresponding way, there is an increased sense of the need for

      repentance: an awareness of certain exclusions which seriously harm

      fraternal charity, of certain refusals to forgive, of a certain pride, of

      an unevangelical insistence on condemning the "other side", of a disdain

      born of an unhealthy presumption. Thus, the entire life of Christians is

      marked by a concern for ecumenism; and they are called to let themselves

      be shaped, as it were, by that concern.

      16. In the teaching of the Second Vatican Council there is a clear

      connection between renewal, conversion and reform. The Council states that

      "Christ summons the Church, as she goes her pilgrim way, to that continual

      reformation of which she always has need, insofar as she is an institution

      of human beings here on earth. Therefore, if the influence of events or of

      the times has led to deficiencies ... these should be appropriately

      rectified at the proper moment".23 No Christian Community can exempt

      itself from this call.

      By engaging in frank dialogue, Communities help one another to look at

      themselves together in the light of the Apostolic Tradition. This leads

      them to ask themselves whether they truly express in an adequate way all

      that the Holy Spirit has transmitted through the Apostles.24 With regard

      to the Catholic Church, I have frequently recalled these obligations and

      perspectives, as for example on the anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan

      Rus' 25 or in commemorating the eleven hundred years since the

      evangelizing activity of Saints Cyril and Methodius.26 More recently, the

      Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, issued

      with my approval by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,

      has applied them to the pastoral sphere.27

      17. With regard to other Christians, the principal documents of the

      Commission on Faith and Order 28 and the statements of numerous bilateral

      dialogues have already provided Christian Communities with useful tools

      for discerning what is necessary to the ecumenical movement and to the

      conversion which it must inspire. These studies are important from two

      points of view: they demonstrate the remarkable progress already made, and

      they are a source of hope inasmuch as they represent a sure foundation for

      further study.

      The increase of fellowship in a reform which is continuous and carried out

      in the light of the Apostolic Tradition is certainly, in the present

      circumstances of Christians, one of the distinctive and most important

      aspects of ecumenism. Moreover, it is an essential guarantee for its

      future. The faithful of the Catholic Church cannot forget that the

      ecumenical thrust of the Second Vatican Council is one consequence of all

      that the Church at that time committed herself to doing in order to

      re-examine herself in the light of the Gospel and the great Tradition. My

      Predecessor, Pope John XXIII, understood this clearly: in calling the

      Council, he refused to separate renewal from ecumenical openness.29 At the

      conclusion of the Council, Pope Paul VI solemnly sealed the Council's

      commitment to ecumenism, renewing the dialogue of charity with the

      Churches in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople, and joining

      the Patriarch in the concrete and profoundly significant gesture which

      "condemned to oblivion" and "removed from memory and from the midst of the

      Church" the excommunications of the past. It is worth recalling that the

      establishment of a special body for ecumenical matters coincided with the

      launching of preparations for the Second Vatican Council 30 and that

      through this body the opinions and judgments of the other Christian

      Communities played a part in the great debates about Revelation, the

      Church, the nature of ecumenism and religious freedom.

      The fundamental importance of doctrine

      18. Taking up an idea expressed by Pope John XXIII at the opening of the

      Council,31 the Decree on Ecumenism mentions the way of formulating

      doctrine as one of the elements of a continuing reform.32 Here it is not a

      question of altering the deposit of faith, changing the meaning of dogmas,

      eliminating essential words from them, accommodating truth to the

      preferences of a particular age, or suppressing certain articles of the

      Creed under the false pretext that they are no longer understood today.

      The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to

      the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith,

      compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of

      Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), who could

      consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the

      truth? The Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae

      attributes to human dignity the quest for truth, "especially in what

      concerns God and his Church",33 and adherence to truth's demands. A "being

      together" which betrayed the truth would thus be opposed both to the

      nature of God who offers his communion and to the need for truth found in

      the depths of every human heart.

      19. Even so, doctrine needs to be presented in a way that makes it

      understandable to those for whom God himself intends it. In my Encyclical

      Epistle Slavorum Apostoli, I recalled that this was the very reason why

      Saints Cyril and Methodius laboured to translate the ideas of the Bible

      and the concepts of Greek theology in the context of very different

      historical experiences and ways of thinking. They wanted the one word of

      God to be "made accessible in each civilization's own forms of

      expression".34 They recognized that they could not therefore "impose on

      the peoples assigned to their preaching either the undeniable superiority

      of the Greek language and Byzantine culture, or the customs and way of

      life of the more advanced society in which they had grown up".35 Thus they

      put into practice that "perfect communion in love which preserves the

      Church from all forms of particularism, ethnic exclusivism or racial

      prejudice, and from any nationalistic arrogance".36 In the same spirit, I

      did not hesitate to say to the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia: "You do

      not have to be divided into two parts ... Jesus calls you to accept his

      words and his values into your own culture".37 Because by its nature the

      content of faith is meant for all humanity, it must be translated into all

      cultures. Indeed, the element which determines communion in truth is the

      meaning of truth. The expression of truth can take different forms. The

      renewal of these forms of expression becomes necessary for the sake of

      transmitting to the people of today the Gospel message in its unchanging


      "This renewal therefore has notable ecumenical significance".39 And not

      only renewal in which the faith is expressed, but also of the very life of

      faith. It might therefore be asked: who is responsible for doing this? To

      this question the Council replies clearly: "Concern for restoring unity

      pertains to the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike. It extends to

      everyone, according to the ability of each, whether it be exercised in

      daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies".40

      20. All this is extremely important and of fundamental significance for

      ecumenical activity. Thus it is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the

      movement promoting Christian unity, is not just some sort of "appendix"

      which is added to the Church's traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is

      an organic part of her life and work, and consequently must pervade all

      that she is and does; it must be like the fruit borne by a healthy and

      flourishing tree which grows to its full stature.

      This is what Pope John XIII believed about the unity of the Church and how

      he saw full Christian unity. With regard to other Christians, to the great

      Christian family, he observed: "What unites us is much greater than what

      divides us". The Second Vatican Council for its part exhorts "all Christ's

      faithful to remember that the more purely they strive to live according to

      the Gospel, the more they are fostering and even practising Christian

      unity. For they can achieve depth and ease in strengthening mutual

      brotherhood to the degree that they enjoy profound communion with the

      Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit".41

      The primacy of prayer

      21. "This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and

      private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul

      of the whole ecumenical movement, and can rightly be called 'spiritual

      ecumenism' ".42

      We proceed along the road leading to the conversion of hearts guided by

      love which is directed to God and, at the same time, to all our brothers

      and sisters, including those not in full communion with us. Love gives

      rise to the desire for unity, even in those who have never been aware of

      the need for it. Love builds communion between individuals and between

      Communities. If we love one another, we strive to deepen our communion and

      make it perfect. Love is given to God as the perfect source of

      communion—the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that we may draw from

      that source the strength to build communion between individuals and

      Communities, or to re-establish it between Christians still divided. Love

      is the great undercurrent which gives life and adds vigour to the movement

      towards unity.

      This love finds its most complete expression in common prayer. When

      brothers and sisters who are not in perfect communion with one another

      come together to pray, the Second Vatican Council defines their prayer as

      the soul of the whole ecumenical movement. This prayer is "a very

      effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity", "a genuine

      expression of the ties which even now bind Catholics to their separated

      brethren".43 Even when prayer is not specifically offered for Christian

      unity, but for other intentions such as peace, it actually becomes an

      expression and confirmation of unity. The common prayer of Christians is

      an invitation to Christ himself to visit the community of those who call

      upon him: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the

      midst of them" (Mt 18:20).

      22. When Christians pray together, the goal of unity seems closer. The

      long history of Christians marked by many divisions seems to converge once

      more because it tends towards that Source of its unity which is Jesus

      Christ. He "is the same yesterday, today and forever!" (Heb 13:8). In the

      fellowship of prayer Christ is truly present; he prays "in us", "with us"

      and "for us". It is he who leads our prayer in the Spirit-Consoler whom he

      promised and then bestowed on his Church in the Upper Room in Jerusalem,

      when he established her in her original unity.

      Along the ecumenical path to unity, pride of place certainly belongs to

      common prayer, the prayerful union of those who gather together around

      Christ himself. If Christians, despite their divisions, can grow ever more

      united in common prayer around Christ, they will grow in the awareness of

      how little divides them in comparison to what unites them. If they meet

      more often and more regularly before Christ in prayer, they will be able

      to gain the courage to face all the painful human reality of their

      divisions, and they will find themselves together once more in that

      community of the Church which Christ constantly builds up in the Holy

      Spirit, in spite of all weaknesses and human limitations.

      23. Finally, fellowship in prayer leads people to look at the Church and

      Christianity in a new way. It must not be forgotten in fact that the Lord

      prayed to the Father that his disciples might be one, so that their unity

      might bear witness to his mission and the world would believe that the

      Father had sent him (cf. Jn 17:21). It can be said that the ecumenical

      movement in a certain sense was born out of the negative experience of

      each one of those who, in proclaiming the one Gospel, appealed to his own

      Church or Ecclesial Community. This was a contradiction which could not

      escape those who listened to the message of salvation and found in this

      fact an obstacle to acceptance of the Gospel. Regrettably, this grave

      obstacle has not been overcome. It is true that we are not yet in full

      communion. And yet, despite our divisions, we are on the way towards full

      unity, that unity which marked the Apostolic Church at its birth and which

      we sincerely seek. Our common prayer, inspired by faith, is proof of this.

      In that prayer, we gather together in the name of Christ who is One. He is

      our unity.

      "Ecumenical" prayer is at the service of the Christian mission and its

      credibility. It must thus be especially present in the life of the Church

      and in every activity aimed at fostering Christian unity. It is as if we

      constantly need to go back and meet in the Upper Room of Holy Thursday,

      even though our presence together in that place will not be perfect until

      the obstacles to full ecclesial communion are overcome and all Christians

      can gather together in the common celebration of the Eucharist.44

      24. It is a source of joy to see that the many ecumenical meetings almost

      always include and indeed culminate in prayer. The Week of Prayer for

      Christian Unity, celebrated in January or, in some countries, around

      Pentecost, has become a widespread and well established tradition. But

      there are also many other occasions during the year when Christians are

      led to pray together. In this context, I wish to mention the special

      experience of the Pope's pilgrimages to the various Churches in the

      different continents and countries of the present-day oikoumene. I am very

      conscious that it was the Second Vatican Council which led the Pope to

      exercise his apostolic ministry in this particular way. Even more can be

      said. The Council made these visits of the Pope a specific responsibility

      in carrying out the role of the Bishop of Rome at the service of

      communion.45 My visits have almost always included an ecumenical meeting

      and common prayer with our brothers and sisters who seek unity in Christ

      and in his Church. With profound emotion I remember praying together with

      the Primate of the Anglican Communion at Canterbury Cathedral (29 May

      1982); in that magnificent edifice, I saw "an eloquent witness both to our

      long years of common inheritance and to the sad years of division that

      followed".46 Nor can I forget the meetings held in the Scandinavian and

      Nordic Countries (1-10 June 1989), in North and South America and in

      Africa, and at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (12 June

      1984), the organization committed to calling its member Churches and

      Ecclesial Communities "to the goal of visible unity in one faith and in

      one Eucharistic fellowship expressed in worship and in common life in

      Christ".47 And how could I ever forget taking part in the Eucharistic

      Liturgy in the Church of Saint George at the Ecumenical Patriarchate (30

      November 1979), and the service held in Saint Peter's Basilica during the

      visit to Rome of my Venerable Brother, Patriarch Dimitrios I (6 December

      1987)? On that occasion, at the Altar of the Confession, we recited

      together the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed according to its original

      Greek text. It is hard to describe in a few words the unique nature of

      each of these occasions of prayer. Given the differing ways in which each

      of these meetings was conditioned by past events, each had its own special

      eloquence. They have all become part of the Church's memory as she is

      guided by the Paraclete to seek the full unity of all believers in Christ.

      25. It is not just the Pope who has become a pilgrim. In recent years,

      many distinguished leaders of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities

      have visited me in Rome, and I have been able to join them in prayer, both

      in public and in private. I have already mentioned the visit of the

      Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I. I would now like to recall the prayer

      meeting, also held in Saint Peter's Basilica, at which I joined the

      Lutheran Archbishops, the Primates of Sweden and Finland, for the

      celebration of Vespers on the occasion of the Sixth Centenary of the

      Canonization of Saint Birgitta (5 October 1991). This is just one example,

      because awareness of the duty to pray for unity has become an integral

      part of the Church's life. There is no important or significant event

      which does not benefit from Christians coming together and praying. It is

      impossible for me to give a complete list of such meetings, even though

      each one deserves to be mentioned. Truly the Lord has taken us by the hand

      and is guiding us. These exchanges and these prayers have already written

      pages and pages of our "Book of unity", a "Book" which we must constantly

      return to and re-read so as to draw from it new inspiration and hope.

      26. Prayer, the community at prayer, enables us always to discover anew

      the evangelical truth of the words: "You have one Father" (Mt 23:9), the

      Father—Abba—invoked by Christ himself, the Only-begotten and

      Consubstantial Son. And again: "You have one teacher, and you are all

      brethren" (Mt 23:8). "Ecumenical" prayer discloses this fundamental

      dimension of brotherhood in Christ, who died to gather together the

      children of God who were scattered, so that in becoming "sons and

      daughters in the Son" (cf. Eph 1:5) we might show forth more fully both

      the mysterious reality of God's fatherhood and the truth about the human

      nature shared by each and every individual.

      "Ecumenical" prayer, as the prayer of brothers and sisters, expresses all

      this. Precisely because they are separated from one another, they meet in

      Christ with all the more hope, entrusting to him the future of their unity

      and their communion. Here too we can appropriately apply the teaching of

      the Council: "The Lord Jesus, when he prayed to the Father 'that all may

      be one ... as we are one' (Jn 17:21-22), opened up vistas closed to human

      reason. For he implied a certain likeness between the union of the Divine

      Persons, and the union of God's children in truth and charity".48

      The change of heart which is the essential condition for every authentic

      search for unity flows from prayer and its realization is guided by

      prayer: "For it is from newness of attitudes, from self-denial and

      unstinted love, that yearnings for unity take their rise and grow towards

      maturity. We should therefore pray to the divine Spirit for the grace to

      be genuinely self-denying, humble, gentle in the service of others, and to

      have an attitude of brotherly generosity towards them".49

      27. Praying for unity is not a matter reserved only to those who actually

      experience the lack of unity among Christians. In the deep personal

      dialogue which each of us must carry on with the Lord in prayer, concern

      for unity cannot be absent. Only in this way, in fact, will that concern

      fully become part of the reality of our life and of the commitments we

      have taken on in the Church. It was in order to reaffirm this duty that I

      set before the faithful of the Catholic Church a model which I consider

      exemplary, the model of a Trappistine Sister, Blessed Maria Gabriella of

      Unity, whom I beatified on 25 January 1983.50 Sister Maria Gabriella,

      called by her vocation to be apart from the world, devoted her life to

      meditation and prayer centered on chapter seventeen of Saint John's

      Gospel, and offered her life for Christian unity. This is truly the

      cornerstone of all prayer: the total and unconditional offering of one's

      life to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. The example of

      Sister Maria Gabriella is instructive; it helps us to understand that

      there are no special times, situations or places of prayer for unity.

      Christ's prayer to the Father is offered as a model for everyone, always

      and everywhere.

      Ecumenical dialogue

      28. If prayer is the "soul" of ecumenical renewal and of the yearning for

      unity, it is the basis and support for everything the Council defines as

      "dialogue". This definition is certainly not unrelated to today's

      personalist way of thinking. The capacity for "dialogue" is rooted in the

      nature of the person and his dignity. As seen by philosophy, this approach

      is linked to the Christian truth concerning man as expressed by the

      Council: man is in fact "the only creature on earth which God willed for

      itself"; thus he cannot "fully find himself except through a sincere gift

      of himself".51 Dialogue is an indispensable step along the path towards

      human self-realization, the self-realization both of each individual and

      of every human community. Although the concept of "dialogue" might appear

      to give priority to the cognitive dimension (dia-logos), all dialogue

      implies a global, existential dimension. It involves the human subject in

      his or her entirety; dialogue between communities involves in a particular

      way the subjectivity of each.

      This truth about dialogue, so profoundly expressed by Pope Paul VI in his

      Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam,52 was also taken up by the Council in its

      teaching and ecumenical activity. Dialogue is not simply an exchange of

      ideas. In some way it is always an "exchange of gifts".53

      29. For this reason, the Council's Decree on Ecumenism also emphasizes the

      importance of "every effort to eliminate words, judgments, and actions

      which do not respond to the condition of separated brethren with truth and

      fairness and so make mutual relations between them more difficult".54 The

      Decree approaches the question from the standpoint of the Catholic Church

      and refers to the criteria which she must apply in relation to other

      Christians. In all this, however, reciprocity is required. To follow these

      criteria is a commitment of each of the parties which desire to enter into

      dialogue and it is a precondition for starting such dialogue. It is

      necessary to pass from antagonism and conflict to a situation where each

      party recognizes the other as a partner. When undertaking dialogue, each

      side must presuppose in the other a desire for reconciliation, for unity

      in truth. For this to happen, any display of mutual opposition must

      disappear. Only thus will dialogue help to overcome division and lead us

      closer to unity.

      30. It can be said, with a sense of lively gratitude to the Spirit of

      Truth, that the Second Vatican Council was a blessed time, during which

      the bases for the Catholic Church's participation in ecumenical dialogue

      were laid. At the same time, the presence of many observers from various

      Churches and Ecclesial Communities, their deep involvement in the events

      of the Council, the many meetings and the common prayer which the Council

      made possible, also helped bring about the conditions for dialogue with

      one another. During the Council, the representatives of other Churches and

      Ecclesial Communities experienced the readiness of the worldwide Catholic

      Episcopate, and in particular of the Apostolic See, to engage in dialogue.

      Local structures of dialogue

      31. The Church's commitment to ecumenical dialogue, as it has clearly

      appeared since the Council, far from being the responsibility of the

      Apostolic See alone, is also the duty of individual local or particular

      Churches. Special commissions for fostering the ecumenical spirit and

      ecumenical activity have been set up by the Bishops' Conferences and the

      Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Suitable structures similar to

      these are operating in individual Dioceses. These initiatives are a sign

      of the widespread practical commitment of the Catholic Church to apply the

      Council's guidelines on ecumenism: this is an essential aspect of the

      ecumenical movement.55 Dialogue has not only been undertaken; it has

      become an outright necessity, one of the Church's priorities. As a result,

      the "methods" of dialogue have been improved, which in turn has helped the

      spirit of dialogue to grow. In this context mention has to be made in the

      first place of "dialogue between competent experts from different Churches

      and Communities. In their meetings, which are organized in a religious

      spirit, each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and

      brings out clearly its distinctive features".56 Moreover, it is useful for

      all the faithful to be familiar with the method which makes dialogue


      32. As the Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom affirms: "Truth is

      to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person

      and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid

      of teaching or instruction, communication, and dialogue. In the course of

      these, people explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or

      think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the

      quest for truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal

      assent that individuals are to adhere to it".57

      Ecumenical dialogue is of essential importance. "Through such dialogue

      everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the

      teaching and religious life of both Communions. In addition, these

      Communions cooperate more closely in whatever projects a Christian

      conscience demands for the common good. They also come together for common

      prayer, where that is permitted. Finally, all are led to examine their own

      faithfulness to Christ's will for the Church and, wherever necessary,

      undertake with vigour the tasks of renewal and reform".58

      Dialogue as an examination of conscience

      33. In the Council's thinking, ecumenical dialogue is marked by a common

      quest for truth, particularly concerning the Church. In effect, truth

      forms consciences and directs efforts to promote unity. At the same time,

      it demands that the consciences and actions of Christians, as brethren

      divided from one another, should be inspired by and submissive to Christ's

      prayer for unity. There is a close relationship between prayer and

      dialogue. Deeper and more conscious prayer makes dialogue more fruitful.

      If on the one hand, dialogue depends on prayer, so, in another sense,

      prayer also becomes the ever more mature fruit of dialogue.

      34. Thanks to ecumenical dialogue we can speak of a greater maturity in

      our common prayer for one another. This is possible inasmuch as dialogue

      also serves as an examination of conscience. In this context, how can we

      fail to recall the words of the First Letter of John? "If we say we have

      no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess

      our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse

      us from all unrighteousness" (1:8-9). John even goes so far as to state:

      "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is

      not in us" (1:10). Such a radical exhortation to acknowledge our condition

      as sinners ought also to mark the spirit which we bring to ecumenical

      dialogue. If such dialogue does not become an examination of conscience, a

      kind of "dialogue of consciences", can we count on the assurance which the

      First Letter of John gives us? "My little children, I am writing this to

      you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate

      with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for

      our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world"

      (2:1-2). All the sins of the world were gathered up in the saving

      sacrifice of Christ, including the sins committed against the Church's

      unity: the sins of Christians, those of the pastors no less than those of

      the lay faithful. Even after the many sins which have contributed to our

      historical divisions, Christian unity is possible, provided that we are

      humbly conscious of having sinned against unity and are convinced of our

      need for conversion. Not only personal sins must be forgiven and left

      behind, but also social sins, which is to say the sinful "structures"

      themselves which have contributed and can still contribute to division and

      to the reinforcing of division.

      35. Here once again the Council proves helpful. It can be said that the

      entire Decree on Ecumenism is permeated by the spirit of conversion.59 In

      the Document, ecumenical dialogue takes on a specific characteristic; it

      becomes a "dialogue of conversion", and thus, in the words of Pope Paul

      VI, an authentic "dialogue of salvation".60 Dialogue cannot take place

      merely on a horizontal level, being restricted to meetings, exchanges of

      points of view or even the sharing of gifts proper to each Community. It

      has also a primarily vertical thrust, directed towards the One who, as the

      Redeemer of the world and the Lord of history, is himself our

      Reconciliation. This vertical aspect of dialogue lies in our

      acknowledgment, jointly and to each other, that we are men and women who

      have sinned. It is precisely this acknowledgment which creates in brothers

      and sisters living in Communities not in full communion with one another

      that interior space where Christ, the source of the Church's unity, can

      effectively act, with all the power of his Spirit, the Paraclete.

      Dialogue as a means of resolving disagreements

      36. Dialogue is also a natural instrument for comparing differing points

      of view and, above all, for examining those disagreements which hinder

      full communion between Christians. The Decree on Ecumenism dwells in the

      first place on a description of the attitudes under which doctrinal

      discussions should take place: "Catholic theologians engaged in ecumenical

      dialogue, while standing fast by the teaching of the Church and searching

      together with separated brothers and sisters into the divine mysteries,

      should act with love for truth, with charity, and with humility".61

      Love for the truth is the deepest dimension of any authentic quest for

      full communion between Christians. Without this love it would be

      impossible to face the objective theological, cultural, psychological and

      social difficulties which appear when disagreements are examined. This

      dimension, which is interior and personal, must be inseparably accompanied

      by a spirit of charity and humility. There must be charity towards one's

      partner in dialogue, and humility with regard to the truth which comes to

      light and which might require a review of assertions and attitudes.

      With regard to the study of areas of disagreement, the Council requires

      that the whole body of doctrine be clearly presented. At the same time, it

      asks that the manner and method of expounding the Catholic faith should

      not be a hindrance to dialogue with our brothers and sisters.62 Certainly

      it is possible to profess one's faith and to explain its teaching in a way

      that is correct, fair and understandable, and which at the same time takes

      into account both the way of thinking and the actual historical

      experiences of the other party.

      Full communion of course will have to come about through the acceptance of

      the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ's disciples.

      Hence all forms of reductionism or facile "agreement" must be absolutely

      avoided. Serious questions must be resolved, for if not, they will

      reappear at another time, either in the same terms or in a different


      37. The Decree Unitatis Redintegratio also indicates a criterion to be

      followed when Catholics are presenting or comparing doctrines: "They

      should remember that in Catholic teaching there exists an order or

      'hierarchy' of truths, since they vary in their relationship to the

      foundation of the Christian faith. Thus the way will be opened for this

      kind of fraternal rivalry to incite all to a deeper realization and a

      clearer expression of the unfathomable riches of Christ".63

      38. In dialogue, one inevitably comes up against the problem of the

      different formulations whereby doctrine is expressed in the various

      Churches and Ecclesial Communities. This has more than one consequence for

      the work of ecumenism.

      In the first place, with regard to doctrinal formulations which differ

      from those normally in use in the community to which one belongs, it is

      certainly right to determine whether the words involved say the same

      thing. This has been ascertained in the case for example of the recent

      common declarations signed by my Predecessors or by myself with the

      Patriarchs of Churches with which for centuries there have been disputes

      about Christology. As far as the formulation of revealed truths is

      concerned, the Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae states: "Even though the

      truths which the Church intends to teach through her dogmatic formulas are

      distinct from the changeable conceptions of a given epoch and can be

      expressed without them, nevertheless it can sometimes happen that these

      truths may be enunciated by the Sacred Magisterium in terms that bear

      traces of such conceptions. In view of this, it must be stated that the

      dogmatic formulas of the Church's Magisterium were from the very beginning

      suitable for communicating revealed truth, and that as they are they

      remain for ever suitable for communicating this truth to those who

      interpret them correctly".64 In this regard, ecumenical dialogue, which

      prompts the parties involved to question each other, to understand each

      other and to explain their positions to each other, makes surprising

      discoveries possible. Intolerant polemics and controversies have made

      incompatible assertions out of what was really the result of two different

      ways of looking at the same reality. Nowadays we need to find the formula

      which, by capturing the reality in its entirety, will enable us to move

      beyond partial readings and eliminate false interpretations.

      One of the advantages of ecumenism is that it helps Christian Communities

      to discover the unfathomable riches of the truth. Here too, everything

      that the Spirit brings about in "others" can serve for the building up of

      all Communities 65 and in a certain sense instruct them in the mystery of

      Christ. Authentic ecumenism is a gift at the service of truth.

      39. Finally, dialogue puts before the participants real and genuine

      disagreements in matters of faith. Above all, these disagreements should

      be faced in a sincere spirit of fraternal charity, of respect for the

      demands of one's own conscience and of the conscience of the other party,

      with profound humility and love for the truth. The examination of such

      disagreements has two essential points of reference: Sacred Scripture and

      the great Tradition of the Church. Catholics have the help of the Church's

      living Magisterium.

      Practical cooperation

      40. Relations between Christians are not aimed merely at mutual knowledge,

      common prayer and dialogue. They presuppose and from now on call for every

      possible form of practical cooperation at all levels: pastoral, cultural

      and social, as well as that of witnessing to the Gospel message.66

      "Cooperation among all Christians vividly expresses that bond which

      already unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ

      the Servant".67 This cooperation based on our common faith is not only

      filled with fraternal communion, but is a manifestation of Christ himself.

      Moreover, ecumenical cooperation is a true school of ecumenism, a dynamic

      road to unity. Unity of action leads to the full unity of faith: "Through

      such cooperation, all believers in Christ are able to learn easily how

      they can understand each other better and esteem each other more, and how

      the road to the unity of Christians may be made smooth".68

      In the eyes of the world, cooperation among Christians becomes a form of

      common Christian witness and a means of evangelization which benefits all



      Brotherhood rediscovered

      41. What has been said above about ecumenical dialogue since the end of

      the Council inspires us to give thanks to the Spirit of Truth promised by

      Christ the Lord to the Apostles and the Church (cf. Jn 14:26). It is the

      first time in history that efforts on behalf of Christian unity have taken

      on such great proportions and have become so extensive. This is truly an

      immense gift of God, one which deserves all our gratitude. From the

      fullness of Christ we receive "grace upon grace" (Jn 1:16). An

      appreciation of how much God has already given is the condition which

      disposes us to receive those gifts still indispensable for bringing to

      completion the ecumenical work of unity.

      An overall view of the last thirty years enables us better to appreciate

      many of the fruits of this common conversion to the Gospel which the

      Spirit of God has brought about by means of the ecumenical movement.

      42. It happens for example that, in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount,

      Christians of one confession no longer consider other Christians as

      enemies or strangers but see them as brothers and sisters. Again, the very

      expression separated brethren tends to be replaced today by expressions

      which more readily evoke the deep communion — linked to the baptismal

      character — which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical

      divisions. Today we speak of "other Christians", "others who have received

      Baptism", and "Christians of other Communities". The Directory for the

      Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism refers to the Communities

      to which these Christians belong as "Churches and Ecclesial Communities

      that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church".69 This

      broadening of vocabulary is indicative of a significant change in

      attitudes. There is an increased awareness that we all belong to Christ. I

      have personally been able many times to observe this during the ecumenical

      celebrations which are an important part of my Apostolic Visits to various

      parts of the world, and also in the meetings and ecumenical celebrations

      which have taken place in Rome. The "universal brotherhood" of Christians

      has become a firm ecumenical conviction. Consigning to oblivion the

      excommunications of the past, Communities which were once rivals are now

      in many cases helping one another: places of worship are sometimes lent

      out; scholarships are offered for the training of ministers in the

      Communities most lacking in resources; approaches are made to civil

      authorities on behalf of other Christians who are unjustly persecuted; and

      the slander to which certain groups are subjected is shown to be


      In a word, Christians have been converted to a fraternal charity which

      embraces all Christ's disciples. If it happens that, as a result of

      violent political disturbances, a certain aggressiveness or a spirit of

      vengeance appears, the leaders of the parties in question generally work

      to make the "New Law" of the spirit of charity prevail. Unfortunately,

      this spirit has not been able to transform every situation where brutal

      conflict rages. In such circumstances those committed to ecumenism are

      often required to make choices which are truly heroic.

      It needs be reaffirmed in this regard that acknowledging our brotherhood

      is not the consequence of a large-hearted philanthropy or a vague family

      spirit. It is rooted in recognition of the oneness of Baptism and the

      subsequent duty to glorify God in his work. The Directory for the

      Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism expresses the hope that

      Baptisms will be mutually and officially recognized.70 This is something

      much more than an act of ecumenical courtesy; it constitutes a basic

      ecclesiological statement.

      It is fitting to recall that the fundamental role of Baptism in building

      up the Church has been clearly brought out thanks also to multilateral


      Solidarity in the service of humanity

      43. It happens more and more often that the leaders of Christian

      Communities join together in taking a stand in the name of Christ on

      important problems concerning man's calling and on freedom, justice,

      peace, and the future of the world. In this way they "communicate" in one

      of the tasks which constitutes the mission of Christians: that of

      reminding society of God's will in a realistic manner, warning the

      authorities and their fellow-citizens against taking steps which would

      lead to the trampling of human rights. It is clear, as experience shows,

      that in some circumstances the united voice of Christians has more impact

      than any one isolated voice.

      Nor are the leaders of Communities the only ones joined in the work for

      unity. Many Christians from all Communities, by reason of their faith, are

      jointly involved in bold projects aimed at changing the world by

      inculcating respect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the

      poor, the lowly and the defenceless. In my Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo

      Rei Socialis, I was pleased to note this cooperation, stressing that the

      Catholic Church cannot fail to take part in these efforts.72 In effect,

      Christians who once acted independently are now engaged together in the

      service of this cause, so that God's mercy may triumph.

      This way of thinking and acting is already that of the Gospel. Hence,

      reaffirming what I wrote in my first Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis,

      I have had occasion "to insist on this point and to encourage every effort

      made in this direction, at all levels where we meet our other brother

      Christians".73 I have thanked God "for what he has already accomplished in

      the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and through them", as well as

      through the Catholic Church.74 Today I see with satisfaction that the

      already vast network of ecumenical cooperation is constantly growing.

      Thanks also to the influence of the World Council of Churches, much is

      being accomplished in this field.

      Approaching one another through the Word of God and through divine worship

      44. Significant progress in ecumenical cooperation has also been made in

      another area, that of the Word of God. I am thinking above all of the

      importance for the different language groups of ecumenical translations of

      the Bible. Following the promulgation by the Second Vatican Council of the

      Constitution Dei Verbum, the Catholic Church could not fail to welcome

      this development.75 These translations, prepared by experts, generally

      offer a solid basis for the prayer and pastoral activity of all Christ's

      followers. Anyone who recalls how heavily debates about Scripture

      influenced divisions, especially in the West, can appreciate the

      significant step forward which these common translations represent.

      45. Corresponding to the liturgical renewal carried out by the Catholic

      Church, certain other Ecclesial Communities have made efforts to renew

      their worship. Some, on the basis of a recommendation expressed at the

      ecumenical level,76 have abandoned the custom of celebrating their liturgy

      of the Lord's Supper only infrequently and have opted for a celebration

      each Sunday. Again, when the cycles of liturgical readings used by the

      various Christian Communities in the West are compared, they appear to be

      essentially the same. Still on the ecumenical level,77 very special

      prominence has been given to the liturgy and liturgical signs (images,

      icons, vestments, light, incense, gestures). Moreover, in schools of

      theology where future ministers are trained, courses in the history and

      significance of the liturgy are beginning to be part of the curriculum in

      response to a newly discovered need.

      These are signs of convergence which regard various aspects of the

      sacramental life. Certainly, due to disagreements in matters of faith, it

      is not yet possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic Liturgy.

      And yet we do have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one

      Eucharist of the Lord, and this desire itself is already a common prayer

      of praise, a single supplication. Together we speak to the Father and

      increasingly we do so "with one heart". At times it seems that we are

      closer to being able finally to seal this "real although not yet full"

      communion. A century ago who could even have imagined such a thing?

      46. In this context, it is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers

      are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the Sacraments of the

      Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in

      full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive

      these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the

      Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in

      specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request

      these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments

      are valid. The conditions for such reciprocal reception have been laid

      down in specific norms; for the sake of furthering ecumenism these norms

      must be respected.78

      Appreciating the endowments present among other Christians

      47. Dialogue does not extend exclusively to matters of doctrine but

      engages the whole person; it is also a dialogue of love. The Council has

      stated: "Catholics must joyfully acknowledge and esteem the truly

      Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among

      our separated brothers and sisters. It is right and salutary to recognize

      the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are

      bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood.

      For God is always wonderful in his works and worthy of admiration".79

      48. The relationships which the members of the Catholic Church have

      established with other Christians since the Council have enabled us to

      discover what God is bringing about in the members of other Churches and

      Ecclesial Communities. This direct contact, at a variety of levels, with

      pastors and with the members of these Communities has made us aware of the

      witness which other Christians bear to God and to Christ. A vast new field

      has thus opened up for the whole ecumenical experience, which at the same

      time is the great challenge of our time. Is not the twentieth century a

      time of great witness, which extends "even to the shedding of blood"? And

      does not this witness also involve the various Churches and Ecclesial

      Communities which take their name from Christ, Crucified and Risen?

      Such a joint witness of holiness, as fidelity to the one Lord, has an

      ecumenical potential extraordinarily rich in grace. The Second Vatican

      Council made it clear that elements present among other Christians can

      contribute to the edification of Catholics: "Nor should we forget that

      whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our

      separated brothers and sisters can contribute to our own edification.

      Whatever is truly Christian never conflicts with the genuine interests of

      the faith; indeed, it can always result in a more ample realization of the

      very mystery of Christ and the Church".80 Ecumenical dialogue, as a true

      dialogue of salvation, will certainly encourage this process, which has

      already begun well, to advance towards true and full communion.

      The growth of communion

      49. A valuable result of the contacts between Christians and of the

      theological dialogue in which they engage is the growth of communion. Both

      contacts and dialogue have made Christians aware of the elements of faith

      which they have in common. This has served to consolidate further their

      commitment to full unity. In all of this, the Second Vatican Council

      remains a powerful source of incentive and orientation.

      The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium links its teaching on the Catholic

      Church to an acknowledgment of the saving elements found in other Churches

      and Ecclesial Communities.81 It is not a matter of becoming aware of

      static elements passively present in those Churches and Communities.

      Insofar as they are elements of the Church of Christ, these are by their

      nature a force for the re-establishment of unity. Consequently, the quest

      for Christian unity is not a matter of choice or expediency, but a duty

      which springs from the very nature of the Christian community.

      In a similar way, the bilateral theological dialogues carried on with the

      major Christian Communities start from a recognition of the degree of

      communion already present, in order to go on to discuss specific areas of

      disagreement. The Lord has made it possible for Christians in our day to

      reduce the number of matters traditionally in dispute.

      Dialogue with the Churches of the East

      50. In this regard, it must first be acknowledged, with particular

      gratitude to Divine Providence, that our bonds with the Churches of the

      East, weakened in the course of the centuries, were strengthened through

      the Second Vatican Council. The observers from these Churches present at

      the Council, together with representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial

      Communities of the West, stated publicly, at that very solemn moment for

      the Catholic Church, their common willingness to seek the re-establishment

      of communion.

      The Council, for its part, considered the Churches of the East with

      objectivity and deep affection, stressing their ecclesial nature and the

      real bonds of communion linking them with the Catholic Church. The Decree

      on Ecumenism points out: "Through the celebration of the Eucharist of the

      Lord in each of these Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in

      stature". It adds, as a consequence, that "although these Churches are

      separated from us, they possess true sacraments, above all — by apostolic

      succession — the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still

      joined to us in a very close relationship".82

      Speaking of the Churches of the East, the Council acknowledged their great

      liturgical and spiritual tradition, the specific nature of their

      historical development, the disciplines coming from the earliest times and

      approved by the Holy Fathers and Ecumenical Councils, and their own

      particular way of expressing their teaching. The Council made this

      acknowledgement in the conviction that legitimate diversity is in no way

      opposed to the Church's unity, but rather enhances her splendour and

      contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission.

      The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council wished to base dialogue on the

      communion which already exists, and it draws attention to the noble

      reality of the Churches of the East: "Therefore, this Sacred Synod urges

      all, but especially those who plan to devote themselves to the work of

      restoring the full communion that is desired between the Eastern Churches

      and the Catholic Church, to give due consideration to these special

      aspects of the origin and growth of the Churches of the East, and to the

      character of the relations which obtained between them and the Roman See

      before the separation, and to form for themselves a correct evaluation of

      these facts".83

      51. The Council's approach has proved fruitful both for the steady

      maturing of fraternal relations through the dialogue of charity, and for

      doctrinal discussion in the framework of the Joint International

      Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and

      the Orthodox Church. It has likewise proved most fruitful in relations

      with the Ancient Churches of the East.

      The process has been slow and arduous, yet a source of great joy; and it

      has been inspiring, for it has led to the gradual rediscovery of


      Resuming contacts

      52. With regard to the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of

      Constantinople, the process which we have just mentioned began thanks to

      the mutual openness demonstrated by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI on the

      one hand, and by the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I and his successors

      on the other. The resulting change found its historical expression in the

      ecclesial act whereby "there was removed from memory and from the midst of

      the Church" 84 the remembrance of the excommunications which nine hundred

      years before, in 1054, had become the symbol of the schism between Rome

      and Constantinople. That ecclesial event, so filled with ecumenical

      commitment, took place during the last days of the Council, on 7 December

      1965. The Council thus ended with a solemn act which was at once a healing

      of historical memories, a mutual forgiveness, and a firm commitment to

      strive for communion.

      This gesture had been preceded by the meeting of Pope Paul VI and

      Patriarch Athenagoras I in Jerusalem, in January 1964, during the Pope's

      pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At that time Pope Paul was also able to meet

      Benedictos, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Later, Pope Paul visited

      Patriarch Athenagoras at the Phanar (Istanbul), on 25 July 1967, and in

      October of the same year the Patriarch was solemnly received in Rome.

      These prayer-filled meetings mapped out the path of rapprochement between

      the Church of the East and the Church of the West, and of the

      re-establishment of the unity they shared in the first millennium.

      Following the death of Pope Paul VI and the brief pontificate of Pope John

      I, when the ministry of Bishop of Rome was entrusted to me, I considered

      it one of the first duties of my pontificate to renew personal contact

      with the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I, who had meanwhile succeeded

      Patriarch Athenagoras in the See of Constantinople. During my visit to the

      Phanar on 29 November 1979, the Patriarch and I were able to decide to

      begin theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and all the

      Orthodox Churches in canonical communion with the See of Constantinople.

      In this regard it would seem important to add that at that time

      preparations were already under way for the convocation of a future

      Council of the Orthodox Churches. The quest for harmony between them

      contributes to the life and vitality of these sister Churches; this is

      also significant in view of the role they are called to play in the path

      towards unity. The Ecumenical Patriarch decided to repay my visit, and in

      December 1987 I had the joy of welcoming him to Rome with deep affection

      and with the solemnity due to him. It is in this context of ecclesial

      fraternity that we should mention the practice, which has now been in

      place for a number of years, of welcoming a delegation from the Ecumenical

      Patriarchate to Rome for the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, as

      well as the custom of sending a delegation of the Holy See to the Phanar

      for the solemn celebration of Saint Andrew.

      53. Among other things, these regular contacts permit a direct exchange of

      information and opinions with a view to fostering fraternal coordination.

      Furthermore, taking part together in prayer accustoms us once more to

      living side by side and helps us in accepting and putting into practice

      the Lord's will for his Church.

      On the path which we have travelled since the Second Vatican Council, at

      least two particularly telling events of great ecumenical significance for

      relations between East and West should be mentioned. The first of these

      was the 1984 Jubilee in commemoration of the eleventh centenary of the

      evangelizing activity of Saints Cyril and Methodius, an occasion which

      enabled me to proclaim the two Holy Apostles of the Slavs, those heralds

      of faith, co-patrons of Europe. In 1964, during the Council, Pope Paul VI

      had already proclaimed Saint Benedict patron of Europe. Associating the

      two Brothers from Thessalonica with the great founder of Western

      monasticism serves indirectly to highlight that twofold ecclesial and

      cultural tradition which has proved so significant for the two thousand

      years of Christianity which mark the history of Europe. Consequently it is

      worth recalling that Saints Cyril and Methodius came from the background

      of the Byzantine Church of their day, at a time when the latter was in

      communion with Rome. In proclaiming them patrons of Europe, together with

      Saint Benedict, it was my intention not only to reaffirm the historical

      truth about Christianity in Europe, but also to provide an important topic

      for the dialogue between East and West which has raised such high hopes in

      the period since the Council. As in Saint Benedict, so in Saints Cyril and

      Methodius, Europe can rediscover its spiritual roots. Now, as the second

      millennium since the Birth of Christ draws to a close, they must be

      venerated together, as the patrons of our past and as the Saints to whom

      the Churches and nations of Europe entrust their future.

      54. The other event which I am pleased to recall is the celebration of the

      Millennium of the Baptism of Rus' (988-1988). The Catholic Church, and

      this Apostolic See in particular, desired to take part in the Jubilee

      celebrations and also sought to emphasize that the Baptism conferred on

      Saint Vladimir in Kiev was a key event in the evangelization of the world.

      The great Slav nations of Eastern Europe owe their faith to this event, as

      do the peoples living beyond the Ural Mountains and as far as Alaska.

      In this perspective an expression which I have frequently employed finds

      its deepest meaning: the Church must breathe with her two lungs! In the

      first millennium of the history of Christianity, this expression refers

      primarily to the relationship between Byzantium and Rome. From the time of

      the Baptism of Rus' it comes to have an even wider application:

      evangelization spread to a much vaster area, so that it now includes the

      entire Church. If we then consider that the salvific event which took

      place on the banks of the Dnieper goes back to a time when the Church in

      the East and the Church in the West were not divided, we understand

      clearly that the vision of the full communion to be sought is that of

      unity in legitimate diversity. This is what I strongly asserted in my

      Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli 85 on Saints Cyril and Methodius and

      in my Apostolic Letter Euntes in Mundum 86 addressed to the faithful of

      the Catholic Church in commemoration of the Millennium of the Baptism of

      Kievan Rus'.

      Sister Churches

      55. In its historical survey the Council Decree Unitatis Redintegratio has

      in mind the unity which, in spite of everything, was experienced in the

      first millennium and in a certain sense now serves as a kind of model.

      "This most sacred Synod gladly reminds all ... that in the East there

      flourish many particular or local Churches; among them the Patriarchal

      Churches hold first place; and of these, many glory in taking their origin

      from the Apostles themselves".87 The Church's journey began in Jerusalem

      on the day of Pentecost and its original expansion in the oikoumene of

      that time was centred around Peter and the Eleven (cf. Acts 2:14). The

      structures of the Church in the East and in the West evolved in reference

      to that Apostolic heritage. Her unity during the first millennium was

      maintained within those same structures through the Bishops, Successors of

      the Apostles, in communion with the Bishop of Rome. If today at the end of

      the second millennium we are seeking to restore full communion, it is to

      that unity, thus structured, which we must look.

      The Decree on Ecumenism highlights a further distinctive aspect, thanks to

      which all the particular Churches remained in unity: "an eager desire to

      perpetuate in a communion of faith and charity those family ties which

      ought to thrive between local Churches, as between sisters".88

      56. Following the Second Vatican Council, and in the light of earlier

      tradition, it has again become usual to refer to the particular or local

      Churches gathered around their Bishop as "Sister Churches". In addition,

      the lifting of the mutual excommunications, by eliminating a painful

      canonical and psychological obstacle, was a very significant step on the

      way towards full communion.

      The structures of unity which existed before the separation are a heritage

      of experience that guides our common path towards the re-establishment of

      full communion. Obviously, during the second millennium the Lord has not

      ceased to bestow on his Church abundant fruits of grace and growth.

      Unfortunately, however, the gradual and mutual estrangement between the

      Churches of the West and the East deprived them of the benefits of mutual

      exchanges and cooperation. With the grace of God a great effort must be

      made to re-establish full communion among them, the source of such good

      for the Church of Christ. This effort calls for all our good will, humble

      prayer and a steadfast cooperation which never yields to discouragement.

      Saint Paul urges us: "Bear one another's burdens" (Gal 6:2). How

      appropriate and relevant for us is the Apostle's exhortation! The

      traditional designation of "Sister Churches" should ever accompany us

      along this path.

      57. In accordance with the hope expressed by Pope Paul VI, our declared

      purpose is to re-establish together full unity in legitimate diversity:

      "God has granted us to receive in faith what the Apostles saw, understood,

      and proclaimed to us. By Baptism 'we are one in Christ Jesus' (Gal 3:28).

      In virtue of the apostolic succession, we are united more closely by the

      priesthood and the Eucharist. By participating in the gifts of God to his

      Church we are brought into communion with the Father through the Son in

      the Holy Spirit ... In each local Church this mystery of divine love is

      enacted, and surely this is the ground of the traditional and very

      beautiful expression 'Sister Churches', which local Churches were fond of

      applying to one another (cf. Decree, Unitatis Redintegratio, 14). For

      centuries we lived this life of 'Sister Churches', and together held

      Ecumenical Councils which guarded the deposit of faith against all

      corruption. And now, after a long period of division and mutual

      misunderstanding, the Lord is enabling us to discover ourselves as 'Sister

      Churches' once more, in spite of the obstacles which were once raised

      between us".89 If today, on the threshold of the third millennium, we are

      seeking the re-establishment of full communion, it is for the

      accomplishment of this reality that we must work and it is to this reality

      that we must refer.

      Contact with this glorious tradition is most fruitful for the Church. As

      the Council points out: "From their very origins the Churches of the East

      have had a treasury from which the Church of the West has amply drawn for

      its liturgy, spiritual tradition and jurisprudence".90

      Part of this "treasury" are also "the riches of those spiritual traditions

      to which monasticism gives special expression. From the glorious days of

      the Holy Fathers, there flourished in the East that monastic spirituality

      which later flowed over into the Western world".91 As I have had the

      occasion to emphasize in my recent Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, the

      Churches of the East have lived with great generosity the commitment shown

      by monastic life, "starting with evangelization, the highest service that

      the Christian can offer his brother, followed by many other forms of

      spiritual and material service. Indeed it can be said that monasticism in

      antiquity—and at various times in subsequent ages too—has been the

      privileged means for the evangelization of peoples".92

      The Council does not limit itself to emphasizing the elements of

      similarity between the Churches in the East and in the West. In accord

      with historical truth, it does not hesitate to say: "It is hardly

      surprising if sometimes one tradition has come nearer than the other to an

      apt appreciation of certain aspects of the revealed mystery or has

      expressed them in a clearer manner. As a result, these various theological

      formulations are often to be considered as complementary rather than

      conflicting".93 Communion is made fruitful by the exchange of gifts

      between the Churches insofar as they complement each other.

      58. From the reaffirmation of an already existing communion of faith, the

      Second Vatican Council drew pastoral consequences which are useful for the

      everyday life of the faithful and for the promotion of the spirit of

      unity. By reason of the very close sacramental bonds between the Catholic

      Church and the Orthodox Churches, the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches

      Orientalium Ecclesiarum has stated: "Pastoral experience clearly shows

      that with respect to our Eastern brethren there should and can be taken

      into consideration various circumstances affecting individuals, wherein

      the unity of the Church is not jeopardized nor are intolerable risks

      involved, but in which salvation itself and the spiritual profit of souls

      are urgently at issue. Hence, in view of special circumstances of time,

      place and personage, the Catholic Church has often adopted and now adopts

      a milder policy, offering to all the means of salvation and an example of

      charity among Christians through participation in the Sacraments and in

      other sacred functions and objects".94

      In the light of experience gained in the years following the Council, this

      theological and pastoral orientation has been incorporated into the two

      Codes of Canon Law.95 It has been explicitly treated from the pastoral

      standpoint in the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on


      In so important and sensitive a matter, it is necessary for Pastors to

      instruct the faithful with care, making them clearly aware of the specific

      reasons both for this sharing in liturgical worship and for the various

      regulations which govern it.

      There must never be a loss of appreciation for the ecclesiological

      implication of sharing in the sacraments, especially in the Holy


      Progress in dialogue

      59. Since its establishment in 1979, the Joint International Commission

      for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox

      Church has worked steadily, directing its study to areas decided upon by

      mutual agreement, with the purpose of re-establishing full communion

      between the two Churches. This communion which is founded on the unity of

      faith, following in the footsteps of the experience and tradition of the

      ancient Church, will find its fulfilment in the common celebration of the

      Holy Eucharist. In a positive spirit, and on the basis of what we have in

      common, the Joint Commission has been able to make substantial progress

      and, as I was able to declare in union with my Venerable Brother, His

      Holiness Dimitrios I, the Ecumenical Patriarch, it has concluded "that the

      Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church can already profess together that

      common faith in the mystery of the Church and the bond between faith and

      sacraments".97 The Commission was then able to acknowledge that "in our

      Churches apostolic succession is fundamental for the sanctification and

      the unity of the people of God".98 These are important points of reference

      for the continuation of the dialogue. Moreover, these joint affirmations

      represent the basis for Catholics and Orthodox to be able from now on to

      bear a faithful and united common witness in our time, that the name of

      the Lord may be proclaimed and glorified.

      60. More recently, the Joint International Commission took a significant

      step forward with regard to the very sensitive question of the method to

      be followed in re-establishing full communion between the Catholic Church

      and the Orthodox Church, an issue which has frequently embittered

      relations between Catholics and Orthodox. The Commission has laid the

      doctrinal foundations for a positive solution to this problem on the basis

      of the doctrine of Sister Churches. Here too it has become evident that

      the method to be followed towards full communion is the dialogue of truth,

      fostered and sustained by the dialogue of love. A recognition of the right

      of the Eastern Catholic Churches to have their own organizational

      structures and to carry out their own apostolate, as well as the actual

      involvement of these Churches in the dialogue of charity and in

      theological dialogue, will not only promote a true and fraternal mutual

      esteem between Orthodox and Catholics living in the same territory, but

      will also foster their joint commitment to work for unity.99 A step

      forward has been taken. The commitment must continue. Already there are

      signs of a lessening of tensions, which is making the quest for unity more


      With regard to the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the

      Catholic Church, the Council expressed its esteem in these terms: "While

      thanking God that many Eastern sons of the Catholic Church ... are already

      living in full communion with their brethren who follow the tradition of

      the West, this sacred Synod declares that this entire heritage of

      spirituality and liturgy, of discipline and theology, in their various

      traditions, belongs to the full catholic and apostolic character of the

      Church".100 Certainly the Eastern Catholic Churches, in the spirit of the

      Decree on Ecumenism, will play a constructive role in the dialogue of love

      and in the theological dialogue at both the local and international

      levels, and thus contribute to mutual understanding and the continuing

      pursuit of full unity.101

      61. In view of all this, the Catholic Church desires nothing less than

      full communion between East and West. She finds inspiration for this in

      the experience of the first millennium. In that period, indeed, "the

      development of different experiences of ecclesial life did not prevent

      Christians, through mutual relations, from continuing to feel certain that

      they were at home in any Church, because praise of the one Father, through

      Christ in the Holy Spirit, rose from them all, in a marvellous variety of

      languages and melodies; all were gathered together to celebrate the

      Eucharist, the heart and model for the community regarding not only

      spirituality and the moral life, but also the

      Church's very structure, in the variety of ministries and services under

      the leadership of the Bishop, successor of the Apostles. The first

      Councils are an eloquent witness to this enduring unity in diversity".102

      How can unity be restored after almost a thousand years? This is the great

      task which the Catholic Church must accomplish, a task equally incumbent

      on the Orthodox Church. Thus can be understood the continuing relevance of

      dialogue, guided by the light and strength of the Holy Spirit.

      Relations with the Ancient Churches of the East

      62. In the period following the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic

      Church has also, in different ways and with greater or lesser rapidity,

      restored fraternal relations with the Ancient Churches of the East which

      rejected the dogmatic formulations of the Councils of Ephesus and

      Chalcedon. All these Churches sent official observers to the Second

      Vatican Council; their Patriarchs have honoured us by their visits, and

      the Bishop of Rome has been able to converse with them as with brothers

      who, after a long time, joyfully meet again.

      The return of fraternal relations with the Ancient Churches of the East

      witnesses to the Christian faith in situations which are often hostile and

      tragic. This is a concrete sign of how we are united in Christ in spite of

      historical, political, social and cultural barriers. And precisely in

      relation to Christology, we have been able to join the Patriarchs of some

      of these Churches in declaring our common faith in Jesus Christ, true God

      and true man. Pope Paul VI of venerable memory signed declarations to this

      effect with His Holiness Shenouda III, the Coptic Orthodox Pope and

      Patriarch,103 and with His Beatitude Jacoub III, the Syrian Orthodox

      Patriarch of Antioch.104 I myself have been able to confirm this

      Christological agreement and draw on it for the development of dialogue

      with Pope Shenouda,105 and for pastoral cooperation with the Syrian

      Patriarch of Antioch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.106

      When the Venerable Patriarch of the Ethiopian Church, Abuna Paulos, paid

      me a visit in Rome on 11 June 1993, together we emphasized the deep

      communion existing between our two Churches: "We share the faith handed

      down from the Apostles, as also the same sacraments and the same ministry,

      rooted in the apostolic succession ... Today, moreover, we can affirm that

      we have the one faith in Christ, even though for a long time this was a

      source of division between us".107

      More recently, the Lord has granted me the great joy of signing a common

      Christological declaration with the Assyrian Patriarch of the East, His

      Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, who for this purpose chose to visit me in Rome in

      November 1994. Taking into account the different theological formulations,

      we were able to profess together the true faith in Christ.108 I wish to

      express my joy at all this in the words of the Blessed Virgin: "My soul

      proclaims the greatness of the Lord" (Lk 1:46).

      63. Ecumenical contacts have thus made possible essential clarifications

      with regard to the traditional controversies concerning Christology, so

      much so that we have been able to profess together the faith which we have

      in common. Once again it must be said that this important achievement is

      truly a fruit of theological investigation and fraternal dialogue. And not

      only this. It is an encouragement for us: for it shows us that the path

      followed is the right one and that we can reasonably hope to discover

      together the solution to other disputed questions.

      Dialogue with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the West

      64. In its great plan for the re-establishment of unity among all

      Christians, the Decree on Ecumenism also speaks of relations with the

      Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West. Wishing to create a

      climate of Christian fraternity and dialogue, the Council situates its

      guidelines in the context of two general considerations: one of an

      historical and psychological nature, and the other theological and

      doctrinal. On the one hand, this Decree affirms: "The Churches and

      Ecclesial Communities which were separated from the Apostolic See of Rome

      during the very serious crisis that began in the West at the end of the

      Middle Ages, or during later times, are bound to the Catholic Church by a

      special affinity and close relationship in view of the long span of

      earlier centuries when the Christian people lived in ecclesiastical

      communion".109 On the other hand, with equal realism the same Document

      states: "At the same time one should recognize that between these Churches

      and Communities on the one hand, and the Catholic Church on the other,

      there are very weighty differences not only of a historical, sociological,

      psychological and cultural nature, but especially in the interpretation of

      revealed truth".110

      65. Common roots and similar, if distinct, considerations have guided the

      development in the West of the Catholic Church and of the Churches and

      Communities which have their origins in the Reformation. Consequently

      these share the fact that they are "Western" in character. Their

      "diversities", although significant as has been pointed out, do not

      therefore preclude mutual interaction and complementarity.

      The ecumenical movement really began within the Churches and Ecclesial

      Communities of the Reform. At about the same time, in January, 1920, the

      Ecumenical Patriarchate expressed the hope that some kind of cooperation

      among the Christian Communions could be organized. This fact shows that

      the weight of cultural background is not the decisive factor. What is

      essential is the question of faith. The prayer of Christ, our one Lord,

      Redeemer and Master, speaks to everyone in the same way, both in the East

      and in the West. That prayer becomes an imperative to leave behind our

      divisions in order to seek and re-establish unity, as a result also of the

      bitter experiences of division itself.

      66. The Second Vatican Council did not attempt to give a "description" of

      post-Reformation Christianity, since "in origin, teaching and spiritual

      practice, these Churches and Ecclesial Communities differ not only from us

      but also among themselves to a considerable degree".111 Furthermore, the

      Decree observes that the ecumenical movement and the desire for peace with

      the Catholic Church have not yet taken root everywhere.112 These

      circumstances notwithstanding, the Council calls for dialogue.

      The Council Decree then seeks to "propose ... some considerations which

      can and ought to serve as a basis and motivation for such dialogue".113

      "Our thoughts are concerned ... with those Christians who openly confess

      Jesus Christ as God and Lord and as the sole Mediator between God and man

      unto the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit".114

      These brothers and sisters promote love and veneration for the Sacred

      Scriptures: "Calling upon the Holy Spirit, they seek in these Sacred

      Scriptures God as he speaks to them in Christ, the One whom the prophets

      foretold, God's Word made flesh for us. In the Scriptures they contemplate

      the life of Christ, as well as the teachings and the actions of the Divine

      Master on behalf of the salvation of all, in particular the mysteries of

      his Death and Resurrection ... They affirm the divine authority of the

      Sacred Books".115

      At the same time, however, they "think differently from us ... about the

      relationship between the Scriptures and the Church. In the Church,

      according to Catholic belief, an authentic teaching office plays a special

      role in the explanation and proclamation of the written word of God".116

      Even so, "in 1 dialogue itself, the sacred utterances are precious

      instruments in the mighty hand of God for attaining that unity which the

      Saviour holds out to all".117

      Furthermore, the Sacrament of Baptism, which we have in common, represents

      "a sacramental bond of unity linking all who have been reborn by means of

      it".118 The theological, pastoral and ecumenical implications of our

      common Baptism are many and important. Although this sacrament of itself

      is "only a beginning, a point of departure", it is "oriented towards a

      complete profession of faith, a complete incorporation into the system of

      salvation such as Christ himself willed it to be, and finally, towards a

      complete participation in Eucharistic communion".119

      67. Doctrinal and historical disagreements at the time of the Reformation

      emerged with regard to the Church, the sacraments and the ordained

      ministry. The Council therefore calls for "dialogue to be undertaken

      concerning the true meaning of the Lord's Supper, the other sacraments and

      the Church's worship and ministry".120

      The Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, pointing out that the post-Reformation

      Communities lack that "fullness of unity with us which should flow from

      Baptism", observes that "especially because of the lack of the Sacrament

      of Orders they have not preserved the genuine and total reality of the

      Eucharistic mystery", even though "when they commemorate the Lord's Death

      and Resurrection in the Holy Supper, they profess that it signifies life

      in communion with Christ and they await his coming in glory".121

      68. The Decree does not overlook the spiritual life and its moral

      consequences: "The Christian way of life of these brethren is nourished by

      faith in Christ. It is strengthened by the grace of Baptism and the

      hearing of God's Word. This way of life expresses itself in private

      prayer, in meditation on the Bible, in Christian family life, and in

      services of worship offered by Communities assembled to praise God.

      Furthermore, their worship sometimes displays notable features of the

      ancient, common liturgy".122

      The Council document moreover does not limit itself to these spiritual,

      moral and cultural aspects but extends its appreciation to the lively

      sense of justice and to the sincere charity towards others which are

      present among these brothers and sisters. Nor does it overlook their

      efforts to make social conditions more humane and to promote peace. All

      this is the result of a sincere desire to be faithful to the Word of

      Christ as the source of Christian life.

      The text thus raises a series of questions which, in the area of ethics

      and morality, is becoming ever more urgent in our time: "There are many

      Christians who do not always understand the Gospel in the same way as

      Catholics".123 In this vast area there is much room for dialogue

      concerning the moral principles of the Gospel and their implications.

      69. The hopes and invitation expressed by the Second Vatican Council have

      been acted upon, and bilateral theological dialogue with the various

      worldwide Churches and Christian Communities in the West has been

      progressively set in motion.

      Moreover, with regard to multilateral dialogue, as early as 1964 the

      process of setting up a "Joint Working Group" with the World Council of

      Churches was begun, and since 1968 Catholic theologians have been admitted

      as full members of the theological Department of the Council, the

      Commission on Faith and Order.

      This dialogue has been and continues to be fruitful and full of promise.

      The topics suggested by the Council Decree have already been addressed, or

      will be in the near future. The reflections of the various bilateral

      dialogues, conducted with a dedication which deserves the praise of all

      those committed to ecumenism, have concentrated on many disputed questions

      such as Baptism, the Eucharist, the ordained ministry, the sacramentality

      and authority of the Church and apostolic succession. As a result,

      unexpected possibilities for resolving these questions have come to light,

      while at the same time there has been a realization that certain questions

      need to be studied more deeply.

      70. This difficult and delicate research, which involves questions of

      faith and respect for one's own conscience as well as for the consciences

      of others, has been accompanied and sustained by the prayer of the

      Catholic Church and of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities.

      Prayer for unity, already so deeply rooted in and spread throughout the

      body of the Church, shows that Christians do indeed see the importance of

      ecumenism. Precisely because the search for full unity requires believers

      to question one another in relation to their faith in the one Lord, prayer

      is the source of enlightenment concerning the truth which has to be

      accepted in its entirety.

      Moreover, through prayer the quest for unity, far from being limited to a

      group of specialists, comes to be shared by all the baptized. Everyone,

      regardless of their role in the Church or level of education, can make a

      valuable contribution, in a hidden and profound way.

      Ecclesial relations

      71. We must give thanks to Divine Providence also for all the events which

      attest to progress on the path to unity. Besides theological dialogue,

      mention should be made of other forms of encounter, common prayer and

      practical cooperation. Pope Paul VI strongly encouraged this process by

      his visit to the headquarters of the World Council of Churches in Geneva

      on 10 June 1969, and by his many meetings with representatives of various

      Churches and Ecclesial Communities. Such contacts greatly help to improve

      mutual knowledge and to increase Christian fraternity.

      Pope John Paul I, during his very brief Pontificate, expressed the desire

      to continue on this path.124 The Lord has enabled me to carry on this

      work. In addition to important ecumenical meetings held in Rome, a

      significant part of my Pastoral Visits is regularly devoted to fostering

      Christian unity. Some of my journeys have a precise ecumenical "priority",

      especially in countries where the Catholic communities constitute a

      minority with respect to the post-Reformation communities or where the

      latter represent a considerable portion of the believers in Christ in a

      given society.

      72. This is true above all for the European countries, in which these

      divisions first appeared, and for North America. In this regard, without

      wishing to minimize the other visits, I would especially mention those

      within Europe which took me twice to Germany, in November 1980 and in

      April-May 1987; to the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales) in

      May-June 1982; to Switzerland in June 1984; and to the Scandinavian and

      Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland) in June

      1989. In an atmosphere of joy, mutual respect, Christian solidarity and

      prayer I met so very many brothers and sisters, all making a committed

      effort to be faithful to the Gospel. Seeing all this has been for me a

      great source of encouragement. We experienced the Lord's presence among


      In this respect I would like to mention one demonstration dictated by

      fraternal charity and marked by deep clarity of faith which made a

      profound impression on me. I am speaking of the Eucharistic celebrations

      at which I presided in Finland and Sweden during my journey to the

      Scandinavian and Nordic countries. At Communion time, the Lutheran Bishops

      approached the celebrant. They wished, by means of an agreed gesture, to

      demonstrate their desire for that time when we, Catholics and Lutherans,

      will be able to share the same Eucharist, and they wished to receive the

      celebrant's blessing. With love I blessed them. The same gesture, so rich

      in meaning, was repeated in Rome at the Mass at which I presided in Piazza

      Farnese, on the sixth centenary of the canonization of Saint Birgitta of

      Sweden, on 6 October 1991.

      I have encountered similar sentiments on the other side of the ocean also:

      in Canada, in September 1984; and particularly in September 1987 in the

      United States, where one notices a great ecumenical openness. This was the

      case, to give one example, of the ecumenical meeting held at Columbia,

      South Carolina on 11 September 1987. The very fact that such meetings

      regularly take place between the Pope and these brothers and sisters whose

      Churches and Ecclesial Communities originate in the Reformation is

      important in itself. I am deeply grateful for the warm reception which I

      have received both from the leaders of the various Communities and from

      the Communities as a whole. From this standpoint, I consider significant

      the ecumenical celebration of the Word held in Columbia on the theme of

      the family.

      73. It is also a source of great joy to observe how in the postconciliar

      period and in the local Churches many programmes and activities on behalf

      of Christian unity are in place, programmes and activities which have a

      stimulating effect at the level of Episcopal Conferences, individual

      Dioceses and parishes, and at the level of the various ecclesial

      organizations and movements.

      Achievements of cooperation

      74. "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of

      heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 7:21).

      The consistency and honesty of intentions and of statements of principles

      are verified by their application to real life. The Council Decree on

      Ecumenism notes that among other Christians "the faith by which they

      believe in Christ bears fruit in praise and thanksgiving for the benefits

      received from the hands of God. Joined to it are a lively sense of justice

      and a true neighbourly charity".125

      What has just been outlined is fertile ground not only for dialogue but

      also for practical cooperation: "Active faith has produced many

      organizations for the relief of spiritual and bodily distress, the

      education of youth, the advancement of humane social conditions, and the

      promotion of peace throughout the world".126

      Social and cultural life offers ample opportunities for ecumenical

      cooperation. With increasing frequency Christians are working together to

      defend human dignity, to promote peace, to apply the Gospel to social

      life, to bring the Christian spirit to the world of science and of the

      arts. They find themselves ever more united in striving to meet the

      sufferings and the needs of our time: hunger, natural disasters and social


      75. For Christians, this cooperation, which draws its inspiration from the

      Gospel itself, is never mere humanitarian action. It has its reason for

      being in the Lord's words: "For I was hungry and you gave me food" (Mt

      25:35). As I have already emphasized, the cooperation among Christians

      clearly manifests that degree of communion which already exists among


      Before the world, united action in society on the part of Christians has

      the clear value of a joint witness to the name of the Lord. It is also a

      form of proclamation, since it reveals the face of Christ.

      The doctrinal disagreements which remain exercise a negative influence and

      even place limits on cooperation. Still, the communion of faith which

      already exists between Christians provides a solid foundation for their

      joint action not only in the social field but also in the religious


      Such cooperation will facilitate the quest for unity. The Decree on

      Ecumenism noted that "through such cooperation, all believers in Christ

      are able to learn easily how they can understand each other better and

      esteem each other more, and how the road to the unity of Christians may be

      made smooth".128

      76. In this context, how can I fail to mention the ecumenical interest in

      peace, expressed in prayer and action by ever greater numbers of

      Christians and with a steadily growing theological inspiration? It could

      not be otherwise. Do we not believe in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace?

      Christians are becoming ever more united in their rejection of violence,

      every kind of violence, from wars to social injustice.

      We are called to make ever greater efforts, so that it may be ever more

      apparent that religious considerations are not the real cause of current

      conflicts, even though, unfortunately, there is still a risk of religion

      being exploited for political and polemical purposes.

      In 1986, at Assisi, during the World Day of Prayer for Peace, Christians

      of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities prayed with one voice to

      the Lord of history for peace in the world. That same day, in a different

      but parallel way, Jews and representatives of non-Christian religions also

      prayed for peace in a harmonious expression of feelings which struck a

      resonant chord deep in the human spirit.

      Nor do I wish to overlook the Day of Prayer for Peace in Europe,

      especially in the Balkans, which took me back to the town of Saint Francis

      as a pilgrim on 9-10 January 1993, and the Mass for Peace in the Balkans

      and especially in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which I celebrated on 23 January

      1994 in Saint Peter's Basilica during the Week of Prayer for Christian


      When we survey the world joy fills our hearts. For we note that Christians

      feel ever more challenged by the issue of peace. They see it as intimately

      connected with the proclamation of the Gospel and with the coming of God's



      Continuing and deepening dialogue

      77. We can now ask how much further we must travel until that blessed day

      when full unity in faith will be attained and we can celebrate together in

      peace the Holy Eucharist of the Lord. The greater mutual understanding and

      the doctrinal convergences already achieved between us, which have

      resulted in an affective and effective growth of communion, cannot suffice

      for the conscience of Christians who profess that the Church is one, holy,

      catholic and apostolic. The ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement is to

      re-establish full visible unity among all the baptized.

      In view of this goal, all the results so far attained are but one stage of

      the journey, however promising and positive.

      78. In the ecumenical movement, it is not only the Catholic Church and the

      Orthodox Churches which hold to this demanding concept of the unity willed

      by God. The orientation towards such unity is also expressed by others.129

      Ecumenism implies that the Christian communities should help one another

      so that there may be truly present in them the full content and all the

      requirements of "the heritage handed down by the Apostles".130 Without

      this, full communion will never be possible. This mutual help in the

      search for truth is a sublime form of evangelical charity.

      The documents of the many International Mixed Commissions of dialogue have

      expressed this commitment to seeking unity. On the basis of a certain

      fundamental doctrinal unity, these texts discuss Baptism, Eucharist,

      ministry and authority.

      From this basic but partial unity it is now necessary to advance towards

      the visible unity which is required and sufficient and which is manifested

      in a real and concrete way, so that the Churches may truly become a sign

      of that full communion in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church

      which will be expressed in the common celebration of the Eucharist.

      This journey towards the necessary and sufficient visible unity, in the

      communion of the one Church willed by Christ, continues to require patient

      and courageous efforts. In this process, one must not impose any burden

      beyond that which is strictly necessary (cf. Acts 15:28).

      79. It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study

      before a true consensus of faith can be achieved: 1) the relationship

      between Sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of faith,

      and Sacred Tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word

      of God; 2) the Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of

      Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and

      Real Presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit;

      3) Ordination, as a Sacrament, to the threefold ministry of the

      episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate; 4) the Magisterium of the Church,

      entrusted to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, understood as

      a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for

      teaching and safeguarding the faith; 5) the Virgin Mary, as Mother of God

      and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ's

      disciples and for all humanity.

      In this courageous journey towards unity, the transparency and the

      prudence of faith require us to avoid both false irenicism and

      indifference to the Church's ordinances.131 Conversely, that same

      transparency and prudence urge us to reject a halfhearted commitment to

      unity and, even more, a prejudicial opposition or a defeatism which tends

      to see everything in negative terms.

      To uphold a vision of unity which takes account of all the demands of

      revealed truth does not mean to put a brake on the ecumenical movement.132

      On the contrary, it means preventing it from settling for apparent

      solutions which would lead to no firm and solid results.133 The obligation

      to respect the truth is absolute. Is this not the law of the Gospel?

      Reception of the results already achieved

      80. While dialogue continues on new subjects or develops at deeper levels,

      a new task lies before us: that of receiving the results already achieved.

      These cannot remain the statements of bilateral commissions but must

      become a common heritage. For this to come about and for the bonds of

      communion to be thus strengthened, a serious examination needs to be made,

      which, by different ways and means and at various levels of

      responsibility, must involve the whole People of God. We are in fact

      dealing with issues which frequently are matters of faith, and these

      require universal consent, extending from the Bishops to the lay faithful,

      all of whom have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit.134 It is the

      same Spirit who assists the Magisterium and awakens the sensus fidei.

      Consequently, for the outcome of dialogue to be received, there is needed

      a broad and precise critical process which analyzes the results and

      rigorously tests their consistency with the Tradition of faith received

      from the Apostles and lived out in the community of believers gathered

      around the Bishop, their legitimate Pastor.

      81. This process, which must be carried forward with prudence and in a

      spirit of faith, will be assisted by the Holy Spirit. If it is to be

      successful, its results must be made known in appropriate ways by

      competent persons. Significant in this regard is the contribution which

      theologians and faculties of theology are called to make by exercising

      their charism in the Church. It is also clear that ecumenical commissions

      have very specific responsibilities and tasks in this regard.

      The whole process is followed and encouraged by the Bishops and the Holy

      See. The Church's teaching authority is responsible for expressing a

      definitive judgment.

      In all this, it will be of great help methodologically to keep carefully

      in mind the distinction between the deposit of faith and the formulation

      in which it is expressed, as Pope John XXIII recommended in his opening

      address at the Second Vatican Council.135

      Continuing spiritual ecumenism and bearing witness to holiness

      82. It is understandable how the seriousness of the commitment to

      ecumenism presents a deep challenge to the Catholic faithful. The Spirit

      calls them to make a serious examination of conscience. The Catholic

      Church must enter into what might be called a "dialogue of conversion",

      which constitutes the spiritual foundation of ecumenical dialogue. In this

      dialogue, which takes place before God, each individual must recognize his

      own faults, confess his sins and place himself in the hands of the One who

      is our Intercessor before the Father, Jesus Christ.

      Certainly, in this attitude of conversion to the will of the Father and,

      at the same time, of repentance and absolute trust in the reconciling

      power of the truth which is Christ, we will find the strength needed to

      bring to a successful conclusion the long and arduous pilgrimage of

      ecumenism. The "dialogue of conversion" with the Father on the part of

      each Community, with the full acceptance of all that it demands, is the

      basis of fraternal relations which will be something more than a mere

      cordial understanding or external sociability. The bonds of fraternal

      koinonia must be forged before God and in Christ Jesus.

      Only the act of placing ourselves before God can offer a solid basis for

      that conversion of individual Christians and for that constant reform of

      the Church, insofar as she is also a human and earthly institution,136

      which represent the preconditions for all ecumenical commitment. One of

      the first steps in ecumenical dialogue is the effort to draw the Christian

      Communities into this completely interior spiritual space in which Christ,

      by the power of the Spirit, leads them all, without exception, to examine

      themselves before the Father and to ask themselves whether they have been

      faithful to his plan for the Church.

      83. I have mentioned the will of the Father and the spiritual space in

      which each community hears the call to overcome the obstacles to unity.

      All Christian Communities know that, thanks to the power given by the

      Spirit, obeying that will and overcoming those obstacles are not beyond

      their reach. All of them in fact have martyrs for the Christian faith.137

      Despite the tragedy of our divisions, these brothers and sisters have

      preserved an attachment to Christ and to the Father so radical and

      absolute as to lead even to the shedding of blood. But is not this same

      attachment at the heart of what I have called a "dialogue of conversion"?

      Is it not precisely this dialogue which clearly shows the need for an ever

      more profound experience of the truth if full communion is to be attained?

      84. In a theocentric vision, we Christians already have a common

      Martyrology. This also includes the martyrs of our own century, more

      numerous than one might think, and it shows how, at a profound level, God

      preserves communion among the baptized in the supreme demand of faith,

      manifested in the sacrifice of life itself.138 The fact that one can die

      for the faith shows that other demands of the faith can also be met. I

      have already remarked, and with deep joy, how an imperfect but real

      communion is preserved and is growing at many levels of ecclesial life. I

      now add that this communion is already perfect in what we all consider the

      highest point of the life of grace, martyria unto death, the truest

      communion possible with Christ who shed his Blood, and by that sacrifice

      brings near those who once were far off (cf. Eph 2:13).

      While for all Christian communities the martyrs are the proof of the power

      of grace, they are not the only ones to bear witness to that power. Albeit

      in an invisible way, the communion between our Communities, even if still

      incomplete, is truly and solidly grounded in the full communion of the

      Saints—those who, at the end of a life faithful to grace, are in communion

      with Christ in glory. These Saints come from all the Churches and

      Ecclesial Communities which gave them entrance into the communion of


      When we speak of a common heritage, we must acknowledge as part of it not

      only the institutions, rites, means of salvation and the traditions which

      all the communities have preserved and by which they have been shaped, but

      first and foremost this reality of holiness.139

      In the radiance of the "heritage of the saints" belonging to all

      Communities, the "dialogue of conversion" towards full and visible unity

      thus appears as a source of hope. This universal presence of the Saints is

      in fact a proof of the transcendent power of the Spirit. It is the sign

      and proof of God's victory over the forces of evil which divide humanity.

      As the liturgies sing: "You are glorified in your Saints, for their glory

      is the crowning of your gifts".140

      Where there is a sincere desire to follow Christ, the Spirit is often able

      to pour out his grace in extraordinary ways. The experience of ecumenism

      has enabled us to understand this better. If, in the interior spiritual

      space described above, Communities are able truly to "be converted" to the

      quest for full and visible communion, God will do for them what he did for

      their Saints. He will overcome the obstacles inherited from the past and

      will lead Communities along his paths to where he wills: to the visible

      koinonia which is both praise of his glory and service of his plan of


      85. Since God in his infinite mercy can always bring good even out of

      situations which are an offence to his plan, we can discover that the

      Spirit has allowed conflicts to serve in some circumstances to make

      explicit certain aspects of the Christian vocation, as happens in the

      lives of the Saints. In spite of fragmentation, which is an evil from

      which we need to be healed, there has resulted a kind of rich bestowal of

      grace which is meant to embellish the koinonia. God's grace will be with

      all those who, following the example of the Saints, commit themselves to

      meeting its demands. How can we hesitate to be converted to the Father's

      expectations? He is with us.

      Contribution of the Catholic Church to the quest for Christian unity

      86. The Constitution Lumen Gentium, in a fundamental affirmation echoed by

      the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio,141 states that the one Church of Christ

      subsists in the Catholic Church.142 The Decree on Ecumenism emphasizes the

      presence in her of the fullness (plenitudo) of the means of salvation.143

      Full unity will come about when all share in the fullness of the means of

      salvation entrusted by Christ to his Church.

      87. Along the way that leads to full unity, ecumenical dialogue works to

      awaken a reciprocal fraternal assistance, whereby Communities strive to

      give in mutual exchange what each one needs in order to grow towards

      definitive fullness in accordance with God's plan (cf. Eph 4:11-13). I

      have said how we are aware, as the Catholic Church, that we have received

      much from the witness borne by other Churches and Ecclesial Communities to

      certain common Christian values, from their study of those values, and

      even from the way in which they have emphasized and experienced them.

      Among the achievements of the last thirty years, this reciprocal fraternal

      influence has had an important place. At the stage which we have now

      reached,144 this process of mutual enrichment must be taken seriously into

      account. Based on the communion which already exists as a result of the

      ecclesial elements present in the Christian communities, this process will

      certainly be a force impelling towards full and visible communion, the

      desired goal of the journey we are making. Here we have the ecumenical

      expression of the Gospel law of sharing. This leads me to state once more:

      "We must take every care to meet the legitimate desires and expectations

      of our Christian brethren, coming to know their way of thinking and their

      sensibilities ... The talents of each must be developed for the utility

      and the advantage of all".145

      The ministry of unity of the Bishop of Rome

      88. Among all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, the Catholic Church

      is conscious that she has preserved the ministry of the Successor of the

      Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom God established as her "perpetual

      and visible principle and foundation of unity" 146 and whom the Spirit

      sustains in order that he may enable all the others to share in this

      essential good. In the beautiful expression of Pope Saint Gregory the

      Great, my ministry is that of servus servorum Dei. This designation is the

      best possible safeguard against the risk of separating power (and in

      particular the primacy) from ministry. Such a separation would contradict

      the very meaning of power according to the Gospel: "I am among you as one

      who serves" (Lk 22:27), says our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the

      Church. On the other hand, as I acknowledged on the important occasion of

      a visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva on 12 June 1984, the

      Catholic Church's conviction that in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome

      she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of

      the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a

      difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain

      painful recollections. To the extent that we are responsible for these, I

      join my Predecessor Paul VI in asking forgiveness.147

      89. It is nonetheless significant and encouraging that the question of the

      primacy of the Bishop of Rome has now become a subject of study which is

      already under way or will be in the near future. It is likewise

      significant and encouraging that this question appears as an essential

      theme not only in the theological dialogues in which the Catholic Church

      is engaging with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, but also more

      generally in the ecumenical movement as a whole. Recently the delegates to

      the Fifth World Assembly of the Commission on Faith and Order of the World

      Council of Churches, held in Santiago de Compostela, recommended that the

      Commission "begin a new study of the question of a universal ministry of

      Christian unity".148 After centuries of bitter controversies, the other

      Churches and Ecclesial Communities are more and more taking a fresh look

      at this ministry of unity.149

      90. The Bishop of Rome is the Bishop of the Church which preserves the

      mark of the martyrdom of Peter and of Paul: "By a mysterious design of

      Providence it is at Rome that [Peter] concludes his journey in following

      Jesus, and it is at Rome that he gives his greatest proof of love and

      fidelity. Likewise Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, gives his supreme

      witness at Rome. In this way the Church of Rome became the Church of Peter

      and of Paul".150

      In the New Testament, the person of Peter has an eminent place. In the

      first part of the Acts of the Apostles, he appears as the leader and

      spokesman of the Apostolic College described as "Peter ... and the Eleven"

      (2:14; cf. 2:37, 5:29). The place assigned to Peter is based on the words

      of Christ himself, as they are recorded in the Gospel traditions.

      91. The Gospel of Matthew gives a clear outline of the pastoral mission of

      Peter in the Church: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood

      has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell

      you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church and the powers

      of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the

      kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in

      heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"

      (16:17-19). Luke makes clear that Christ urged Peter to strengthen his

      brethren, while at the same time reminding him of his own human weakness

      and need of conversion (cf. 22:31-32). It is just as though, against the

      backdrop of Peter's human weakness, it were made fully evident that his

      particular ministry in the Church derives altogether from grace. It is as

      though the Master especially concerned himself with Peter's conversion as

      a way of preparing him for the task he was about to give him in his

      Church, and for this reason was very strict with him. This same role of

      Peter, similarly linked with a realistic affirmation of his weakness,

      appears again in the Fourth Gospel: "Simon, son of John, do you love me

      more than these? ... Feed my sheep" (cf. Jn 21:15-19). It is also

      significant that according to the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians

      the Risen Christ appears to Cephas and then to the Twelve (cf. 15:5).

      It is important to note how the weakness of Peter and of Paul clearly

      shows that the Church is founded upon the infinite power of grace (cf. Mt

      16:17; 2 Cor 12:7-10). Peter, immediately after receiving his mission, is

      rebuked with unusual severity by Christ, who tells him: "You are a

      hindrance to me" (Mt 16:23). How can we fail to see that the mercy which

      Peter needs is related to the ministry of that mercy which he is the first

      to experience? And yet, Peter will deny Jesus three times. The Gospel of

      John emphasizes that Peter receives the charge of shepherding the flock on

      the occasion of a threefold profession of love (cf. 21:15-17), which

      corresponds to his threefold denial (cf. 13:38). Luke, for his part, in

      the words of Christ already quoted, words which the early tradition will

      concentrate upon in order to clarify the mission of Peter, insists on the

      fact that he will have to "strengthen his brethren when he has turned

      again" (cf. 22:32).

      92. As for Paul, he is able to end the description of his ministry with

      the amazing words which he had heard from the Lord himself: "My grace is

      sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness";

      consequently, he can exclaim: "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor

      12:9-10). This is a basic characteristic of the Christian experience.

      As the heir to the mission of Peter in the Church, which has been made

      fruitful by the blood of the Princes of the Apostles, the Bishop of Rome

      exercises a ministry originating in the manifold mercy of God. This mercy

      converts hearts and pours forth the power of grace where the disciple

      experiences the bitter taste of his personal weakness and helplessness.

      The authority proper to this ministry is completely at the service of

      God's merciful plan and it must always be seen in this perspective. Its

      power is explained from this perspective.

      93. Associating himself with Peter's threefold profession of love, which

      corresponds to the earlier threefold denial, his Successor knows that he

      must be a sign of mercy. His is a ministry of mercy, born of an act of

      Christ's own mercy. This whole lesson of the Gospel must be constantly

      read anew, so that the exercise of the Petrine ministry may lose nothing

      of its authenticity and transparency.

      The Church of God is called by Christ to manifest to a world ensnared by

      its sins and evil designs that, despite everything, God in his mercy can

      convert hearts to unity and enable them to enter into communion with him.

      94. This service of unity, rooted in the action of divine mercy, is

      entrusted within the College of Bishops to one among those who have

      received from the Spirit the task, not of exercising power over the

      people—as the rulers of the Gentiles and their great men do (cf. Mt 20:25;

      Mk 10:42)—but of leading them towards peaceful pastures. This task can

      require the offering of one's own life (cf. Jn 10:11-18). Saint Augustine,

      after showing that Christ is "the one Shepherd, in whose unity all are

      one", goes on to exhort: "May all shepherds thus be one in the one

      Shepherd; may they let the one voice of the Shepherd be heard; may the

      sheep hear this voice and follow their Shepherd, not this shepherd or

      that, but the only one; in him may they all let one voice be heard and not

      a babble of voices ... the voice free of all division, purified of all

      heresy, that the sheep hear".151 The mission of the Bishop of Rome within

      the College of all the Pastors consists precisely in "keeping watch"

      (episkopein), like a sentinel, so that, through the efforts of the

      Pastors, the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the

      particular Churches. In this way, in each of the particular Churches

      entrusted to those Pastors, the una, sancta, catholica et apostolica

      Ecclesia is made present. All the Churches are in full and visible

      communion, because all the Pastors are in communion with Peter and

      therefore united in Christ.

      With the power and the authority without which such an office would be

      illusory, the Bishop of Rome must ensure the communion of all the

      Churches. For this reason, he is the first servant of unity. This primacy

      is exercised on various levels, including vigilance over the handing down

      of the Word, the celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the

      Church's mission, discipline and the Christian life. It is the

      responsibility of the Successor of Peter to recall the requirements of the

      common good of the Church, should anyone be tempted to overlook it in the

      pursuit of personal interests. He has the duty to admonish, to caution and

      to declare at times that this or that opinion being circulated is

      irreconcilable with the unity of faith. When circumstances require it, he

      speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He can

      also—under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican

      Council— declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the

      deposit of faith.152 By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves


      95. All this however must always be done in communion. When the Catholic

      Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the

      will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission

      entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also "vicars and

      ambassadors of Christ".153 The Bishop of Rome is a member of the

      "College", and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry.

      Whatever relates to the unity of all Christian communities clearly forms

      part of the concerns of the primacy. As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware,

      as I have reaffirmed in the present Encyclical Letter, that Christ

      ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities

      in which, by virtue of God's faithfulness, his Spirit dwells. I am

      convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above

      all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the

      Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way

      of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is

      essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a

      whole millennium Christians were united in "a brotherly fraternal

      communion of faith and sacramental life ... If disagreements in belief and

      discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as


      In this way the primacy exercised its office of unity. When addressing the

      Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness

      that "for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all

      concerned, what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in

      a very different light. But ... it is out of a desire to obey the will of

      Christ truly that I recognize that as Bishop of Rome I am called to

      exercise that ministry ... I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his

      light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our

      Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this

      ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned".155

      96. This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse and which I cannot

      carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communion existing

      between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me

      in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which,

      leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another,

      keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church and allowing

      ourselves to be deeply moved by his plea "that they may all be one ... so

      that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21)?

      The communion of all particular Churches with the Church of Rome: a

      necessary condition for unity

      97. The Catholic Church, both in her praxis and in her solemn documents,

      holds that the communion of the particular Churches with the Church of

      Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome, is—in God's plan—an

      essential requisite of full and visible communion. Indeed full communion,

      of which the Eucharist is the highest sacramental manifestation, needs to

      be visibly expressed in a ministry in which all the Bishops recognize that

      they are united in Christ and all the faithful find confirmation for their

      faith. The first part of the Acts of the Apostles presents Peter as the

      one who speaks in the name of the apostolic group and who serves the unity

      of the community—all the while respecting the authority of James, the head

      of the Church in Jerusalem. This function of Peter must continue in the

      Church so that under her sole Head, who is Jesus Christ, she may be

      visibly present in the world as the communion of all his disciples.

      Do not many of those involved in ecumenism today feel a need for such a

      ministry? A ministry which presides in truth and love so that the

      ship—that beautiful symbol which the World Council of Churches has chosen

      as its emblem— will not be buffeted by the storms and will one day reach

      its haven.

      Full unity and evangelization

      98. The ecumenical movement in our century, more than the ecumenical

      undertakings of past centuries, the importance of which must not however

      be underestimated, has been characterized by a missionary outlook. In the

      verse of John's Gospel which is ecumenism's inspiration and guiding

      motif—"that they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that you

      have sent me" (Jn 17:21)—the phrase that the world may believe has been so

      strongly emphasized that at times we run the risk of forgetting that, in

      the mind of the Evangelist, unity is above all for the glory of the

      Father. At the same time it is obvious that the lack of unity among

      Christians contradicts the Truth which Christians have the mission to

      spread and, consequently, it gravely damages their witness. This was

      clearly understood and expressed by my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, in his

      Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi: "As evangelizers, we must offer

      Christ's faithful not the image of people divided and separated by

      unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and

      capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a

      shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth. Yes, the destiny of

      evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by

      the Church ... At this point we wish to emphasize the sign of unity among

      all Christians as the way and instrument of evangelization. The division

      among Christians is a serious reality which impedes the very work of


      How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the

      same time being committed to working for reconciliation between

      Christians? However true it is that the Church, by the prompting of the

      Holy Spirit and with the promise of indefectibility, has preached and

      still preaches the Gospel to all nations, it is also true that she must

      face the difficulties which derive from the lack of unity. When

      non-believers meet missionaries who do not agree among themselves, even

      though they all appeal to Christ, will they be in a position to receive

      the true message? Will they not think that the Gospel is a cause of

      division, despite the fact that it is presented as the fundamental law of


      99. When I say that for me, as Bishop of Rome, the ecumenical task is "one

      of the pastoral priorities" of my Pontificate,157 I think of the grave

      obstacle which the lack of unity represents for the proclamation of the

      Gospel. A Christian Community which believes in Christ and desires, with

      Gospel fervour, the salvation of mankind can hardly be closed to the

      promptings of the Holy Spirit, who leads all Christians towards full and

      visible unity. Here an imperative of charity is in question, an imperative

      which admits of no exception. Ecumenism is not only an internal question

      of the Christian Communities. It is a matter of the love which God has in

      Jesus Christ for all humanity; to stand in the way of this love is an

      offence against him and against his plan to gather all people in Christ.

      As Pope Paul VI wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I: "May the

      Holy Spirit guide us along the way of reconciliation, so that the unity of

      our Churches may become an ever more radiant sign of hope and consolation

      for all mankind".158


      100. In my recent Letter to the Bishops, clergy and faithful of the

      Catholic Church indicating the path to be followed towards the celebration

      of the Great Jubilee of the Holy Year 2000, I wrote that "the best

      preparation for the new millennium can only be expressed in a renewed

      commitment to apply, as faithfully as possible, the teachings of Vatican

      II to the life of every individual and of the whole Church".159 The Second

      Vatican Council is the great beginning—the Advent as it were—of the

      journey leading us to the threshold of the Third Millennium. Given the

      importance which the Council attributed to the work of rebuilding

      Christian unity, and in this our age of grace for ecumenism, I thought it

      necessary to reaffirm the fundamental convictions which the Council

      impressed upon the consciousness of the Catholic Church, recalling them in

      the light of the progress subsequently made towards the full communion of

      all the baptized.

      There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is active in this endeavour and

      that he is leading the Church to the full realization of the Father's

      plan, in conformity with the will of Christ. This will was expressed with

      heartfelt urgency in the prayer which, according to the Fourth Gospel, he

      uttered at the moment when he entered upon the saving mystery of his

      Passover. Just as he did then, today too Christ calls everyone to renew

      their commitment to work for full and visible communion.

      101. I therefore exhort my Brothers in the Episcopate to be especially

      mindful of this commitment. The two Codes of Canon Law include among the

      responsibilities of the Bishop that of promoting the unity of all

      Christians by supporting all activities or initiatives undertaken for this

      purpose, in the awareness that the Church has this obligation from the

      will of Christ himself.160 This is part of the episcopal mission and it is

      a duty which derives directly from fidelity to Christ, the Shepherd of the

      Church. Indeed all the faithful are asked by the Spirit of God to do

      everything possible to strengthen the bonds of communion between all

      Christians and to increase cooperation between Christ's followers:

      "Concern for restoring unity pertains to the whole Church, faithful and

      clergy alike. It extends to everyone according to the potential of


      102. The power of God's Spirit gives growth and builds up the Church down

      the centuries. As the Church turns her gaze to the new millennium, she

      asks the Spirit for the grace to strengthen her own unity and to make it

      grow towards full communion with other Christians.

      How is the Church to obtain this grace? In the first place, through

      prayer. Prayer should always concern itself with the longing for unity,

      and as such is one of the basic forms of our love for Christ and for the

      Father who is rich in mercy. In this journey which we are undertaking with

      other Christians towards the new millennium prayer must occupy the first


      How is she to obtain this grace? Through giving thanks, so that we do not

      present ourselves empty-handed at the appointed time: "Likewise the Spirit

      helps us in our weakness ... " intercedes for us with sighs too deep for

      words" (Rom 8:26), disposing us to ask God for what we need.

      How is she to obtain this grace? Through hope in the Spirit, who can

      banish from us the painful memories of our separation. The Spirit is able

      to grant us clear-sightedness, strength and courage to take whatever steps

      are necessary, that our commitment may be ever more authentic.

      And should we ask if all this is possible, the answer will always be yes.

      It is the same answer which Mary of Nazareth heard: with God nothing is


      I am reminded of the words of Saint Cyprian's commentary on the Lord's

      Prayer, the prayer of every Christian: "God does not accept the sacrifice

      of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that

      he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only

      by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace,

      brotherly concord and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son

      and Holy Spirit".162

      At the dawn of the new millennium, how can we not implore from the Lord,

      with renewed enthusiasm and a deeper awareness, the grace to prepare

      ourselves, together, to offer this sacrifice of unity?

      103. I, John Paul, servus servorum Dei, venture to make my own the words

      of the Apostle Paul, whose martyrdom, together with that of the Apostle

      Peter, has bequeathed to this See of Rome the splendour of its witness,

      and I say to you, the faithful of the Catholic Church, and to you, my

      brothers and sisters of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities:

      "Mend your ways, encourage one another, live in harmony, and the God of

      love and peace will be with you ... The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and

      the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2

      Cor 13:11,13).

      Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 25 May, the Solemnity of the Ascension

      of the Lord, in the year 1995, the seventeenth of my Pontificate.







      1 Cf. Address following the Way of the Cross on Good Friday (1 April

      1994), 3: AAS 87 (1995), 88.



      2 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration On Religious Freedom

      Dignitatis Humanae, 1.



      3 Cf. Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (10 November 1994), 16:

      AAS 87 (1995), 15.



      4 CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter to the Bishops of the

      Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion

      Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 4: AAS 85 (1993), 840.



      5 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 1.



      6 Ibid.



      7 Ibid., 4.



      8 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the

      Church Lumen Gentium, 14.



      9 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom

      Dignitatis Humanae, 1 and 2.



      10 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the

      Church Lumen Gentium, 14.



      11 Ibid., 8.



      12 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 3.



      13 Ibid.



      14 No. 15.



      15 Ibid.



      16 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 15.



      17 Ibid., 3.



      18 Ibid.



      19 Cf. SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, Homilies on the Gospel, 19, 1: PL, 1154,

      quoted in SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the

      Church Lumen Gentium, 2.



      20 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 4.



      21 Ibid., 7.



      22 Cf. Ibid.



      23 Ibid., 6.



      24 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Dei

      Verbum, 7.



      25 Cf. Apostolic Letter Euntes in Mundum (25 January 1988): AAS 80 (1988),




      26 Cf. Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli (2 June 1985 ): AAS 77 (1985),




      27 Cf. Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism

      (25 March 1993): AAS 85 (1993), 1039-1119.



      28 Cf. in particular, the Lima Document: Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry

      (January 1982); and the study of the JOINT WORKING GROUP BETWEEN THE


      Faith (1991), Document No. 153 of the Commission on Faith and Order,

      Geneva, 1991.



      29 Cf. Opening Address of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (11

      October 1962): AAS 54 (1962), 793.




      established by Pope John XXIII With the Motu Proprio Superno Dei Nutu (5

      June 1960), 9: AAS 52 (1960), 436, and confirmed by successive documents:

      JOHN XXIII Motu Proprio Appropinquante Concilio (6 August 1962), c. III,

      a. 7, § 2, I: AAS 54 (1962), 614; cf. PAUL VI Apostolic Constitution

      Regimini Ecclesiae Universae (15 August 1967), 92-94: AAS 59 (1967),

      918-919. This dicastery is now called the PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PROMOTING

      CHRISTIAN UNITY: Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (28

      June 1988), V, Arts. 135-138: AAS 80 (1988), 895-896.



      31 Opening Address of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (11 October

      1962): AAS 54 (1962), 792.



      32 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 6.



      33 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom

      Dignitatis Humanae, 1.



      34 Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli (2 June 1985),11: AAS 77 (1985),




      35 Ibid., 13: loc. cit., 794.



      36 Ibid., 11: loc. cit., 792.



      37 Address to the Aboriginal Peoples (29 November 1986), 12: AAS 79

      (1987), 977.



      38 Cf. SAINT VINCENT OF LERINS, Commonitorium primum, 23: PL 50, 667-668.



      39 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 6.



      40 Ibid., 5.



      41 Ibid., 7.



      42 Ibid., 8.



      43 Ibid.



      44 Cf. Ibid., 4.



      45 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (10

      November 1994), 24: AAS 87 (1995), 19-20.



      46 Address at Canterbury Cathedral (29 May 1982), 5: AAS 74 (1982), 922.



      47 WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, Constitution and Rules, III, 1.



      48 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church

      in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 24.



      49 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 7.



      50 Maria Sagheddu was born at Dorgali (Sardinia) in 1914. At twenty-one

      years of age she entered the Trappistine Monastery in Grottaferrata.

      Through the apostolic labours of Abbé Paul Couturier, she came to

      understand the need for prayers and spiritual sacrifices for the unity of

      Christians. In 1936, at the time of an Octave for Unity, she chose to

      offer her life for the unity of the Church. Following a grave illness,

      Sister Maria Gabriella died on 23 April 1939.



      51 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church

      in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 24.



      52 Cf. AAS 56 (1964), 609-659.



      53 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the

      Church Lumen Gentium, 13.



      54 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree On Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 4.



      55 Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 755; Code of Canons of the Eastern

      Churches, Canons 902-904.



      56 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 4.



      57 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on Religious Freedom

      Dignitatis Humanae, 3.



      58 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 4.



      59 Cf. ibid.



      60 Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam (6 August 1964), III: AAS 56 (1964),




      61 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 11,



      62 Cf, ibid.



      63 Ibid.; Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration in

      Defence of Catholic Doctrine on the Church Mysterium Ecclesiae (24 June

      1973), 4: AAS G5 (1973), 402.



      64 CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration in Defence of

      Catholic Doctrine on the Church Mysterium Ecclesiae, 5: AAS 65 (1973),




      65 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 4.



      66 Cf. Common Christological Declaration between the Catholic Church and

      the Assyrian Church of the East: L'Osservatore Romano, 12 November 1994,




      67 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 12.



      68 Ibid.




      Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (25 March 1993 ), 5: AAS

      85 (1993), 1040.



      70 Ibid. 94: loc. cit., 1078,




      Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (January 1982).



      72 Cf. Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 32:

      AAS 80 (1988), 556.



      73 Address to the Cardinals and the Roman Curia (28 June 1985), 10: AAS 77

      (1985), 1158; cf. Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 11:

      AAS 71 (1979), 277-278.



      74 Address to the Cardinals and the Roman Curia (28 June 1985), 10: AAS 77

      (1985), 1158.





      Interconfessional Cooperation in Translating the Bible (1968). This was

      revised and then published by the SECRETARIAT FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN

      UNITY, "Guidelines for Interconfessional Cooperation in Translating the

      Bible": Information Service, 65 (1987), 140-145.




      Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (January 1982).



      77 For example, at the most recent assemblies of the World Council of

      Churches in Vancouver (1983) and in Canberra (1991), and of the Commission

      on Faith and Order in Santiago de Compostela (1993).



      78 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 8 and 15; Code of Canon Law, Canon 844; Code of Canons of

      the Eastern Churches, Canon 671; PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PROMOTING

      CHRISTIAN UNITY, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on

      Ecumenism (25 March 1993), 122-125, 129-131, 123 and 132: AAS 85 (1993),

      1086-1087, 1088-1089, 1087 and 1089.



      79 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree On Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 4.



      80 Ibid.



      81 Cf. No. 15.



      82 No. 15.



      83 Ibid., 14.



      84 Cf. Joint Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch of

      Constantinople Athenagoras I (7 December 1965): Tomos Agapis,

      Vatican-Phanar (1958-1970), Rome-Istanbul, 1971, 280-281.



      85 Cf. AAS 77 (1985), 779-813.



      86 Cf. AAS 80 (1988), 933-956; cf. Message Magnum Baptismi Donum, (14

      February 1988): AAS 80 (1988), 988-997,



      87 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree On Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 14.



      88 Ibid.



      89 Apostolic Brief Anno Ineunte (25 July 1967): Tomos Agapis,

      Vatican-Phanar (1958-1970), Rome-Istanbul, 1971, 388-391.



      90 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 14.



      91 Ibid., 15.



      92 No. 14: L'Osservatore Romano, 2-3 May 1995, 3.



      93 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 17.



      94 No. 26.



      95 Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 844, §§ 2 and 3; Code of Canons of the

      Eastern Churches, Canon 671, §§ 2 and 3.




      Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (25 March 1993), 122-128:

      AAS 85 (1993), 1086-1088.



      97 Declaration by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical

      Patriarch Dimitrios I (7 December 1987): AAS 80 (1988), 253.




      CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, "The Sacrament of Order in the

      Sacramental Structure of the Church, with Particular Reference to the

      Importance of the Apostolic Succession for the Sanctification and the

      Unity of the People of God" (26 June 1988),1: Information Service, 68

      (1988), 173.



      99 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Letter to the Bishops of Europe on the Relations

      between Catholics and Orthodox in the New Situation of Central and Eastern

      Europe (31 May 1991), 6: AAS 84 (1992), 168.



      100 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 17.



      101 Cf. Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen (2 May 1995 ), 24: L'Osservatore

      Romano, 2-3 May 1995, 5.



      102 Ibid., 18: loc. cit., 4.



      103 Cf. Joint Declaration by His Holiness Pope Paul VI and His Holiness

      Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark of

      Alexandria (10 May 1973): AAS 65 (1973), 299-301.



      104 Cf. Joint Declaration by His Holiness Pope Paul VI and His Beatitude

      Mar Ignatius Jacoub III, Patriarch of the Church of Antioch of the Syrians

      (27 October 1971): AAS 63 (1971), 814-815.



      105 Cf. Address to the Delegates of the Coptic Orthodox Church (2 June

      1979): AAS 71 (1979), 1000-1001.



      106 Cf. Joint Declaration of Pope John Paul II and the SyrianOrthodox

      Patriarch of Antioch, Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (23 June 1984):

      Insegnamenti VII/1 (1984), 1902-1906.



      107 Address to His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church

      of Ethiopia (11 June 1993): L'Osservatore Romano, 11-12 June 1993, 4.



      108 Cf. Common Christological Declaration between the Catholic Church and

      the Assyrian Church of the East: L'Osservatore Romano, 12 November 1994,




      109 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 19.



      110 Ibid.



      111 Ibid., 19.



      112 Cf. ibid.



      113 Ibid.



      114 Ibid., 20.



      115 Ibid., 21.



      116 Ibid.



      117 Ibid.



      118 Ibid., 22.



      119 Ibid.



      120 Ibid., 22; cf. 20.



      121 Ibid., 22.



      122 Ibid., 23.



      123 Ibid.



      124 Cf. Radio Message Urbi et Orbi (27 August 1978): AAS 70 (1978),




      125 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 23.



      126 Ibid.



      127 Cf. ibid., 12.



      128 Ibid.



      129 The steady work of the Commission on Faith and Order has led to a

      comparable vision adopted by the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of

      Churches in the Canberra Declaration (7-20 February 1991); cf. Signs of

      the Spirit, Official Report, Seventh Assembly, WCC, Geneva, 1991, pp.

      235-258. This vision was reaffirmed by the World Conference of Faith and

      Order at Santiago de Compostela (3-14 August 1993); cf. Information

      Service, 85 (1994), 18-37.



      130 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree On Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 14.



      131 Cf. ibid., 4 and 11.



      132 Cf. Address to the Cardinals and the Roman Curia (28 June 1985), 6:

      AAS 77 (1985), 1153.



      133 Cf. ibid.



      134 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the

      Church Lumen Gentium, 12.



      135 Cf. AAS 54 (1962), 792.



      136 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 6,



      137 Cf. ibid., 4; PAUL VI, Homily for the Canonization of the Ugandan

      Martyrs (18 October 1964): AAS 56 (1964), 906.



      138 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (10

      November 1994), 37: AAS 87 (1995), 29-30.



      139 Cf. PAUL VI, Address at the Shrine in Namugongo, Uganda (2 August

      1969): AAS 61 (1969), 590-591.



      140 Cf. Missale Romanum, Praefatio de Sanctis I: Sanctorum "coronando

      merita tua dona coronans",



      141 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 4.



      142 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the

      Church Lumen Gentium, 8.



      143 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 3.



      144 After the Lima Document of the Commission on Faith and Order, Baptism,

      Eucharist and Ministry (January 1982), and in the spirit of the

      Declaration of the Seventh General Assembly of the World Council of

      Churches, The Unity of the Church as "koinonia": Gift and Task (Canberra,

      7-20 February 1991): cf. Istina 36 (1991), 389-391.



      145 Address to the Cardinals and the Roman Curia (28 June 1985), 4: AAS 77

      (1985), 1151-1152.



      146 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

      Lumen Gentium, 23.



      147 Cf. Discourse at the Headquarters of the World Council of Churches,

      Geneva (12 June 1984), 2: Insegnamenti VII/1 (1984), 1686.




      Second Section, Santiago de Compostela (1993): Confessing the One Faith to

      God's Glory, 31, 2, Faith and Order Paper No. 166, World Council of

      Churches, Geneva, 1994, 243.



      149 To cite only a few examples: ANGLICAN-ROMAN CATHOLIC INTERNATIONAL

      COMMISSION, Final Report, ARCIC-I (September 1981); INTERNATIONAL



      The Ministry in the Church (13 March 1981). The problem takes clear shape

      in the research conducted by the JOINT INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE




      150 Address to the Cardinals and the Roman Curia (28 June 1985), 3: AAS 77

      (1985), 1150.



      151 Sermon XLVI, 30: CCL 41, 557.



      152 Cf. FIRST VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL Dogmatic Constitution on the

      Church of Christ Pastor Aeternus: DS 3074.



      153 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church

      Lumen Gentium, 27.



      154 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree On Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 14.



      155 Homily in the Vatican Basilica in the presence of Dimitrios I,

      Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch (6 December 1987),

      3; AAS 80 (1988), 714.



      156 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975), 77: AAS

      68 (1976), fig; cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism


      UNITY, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism

      (25 March 1993 ), 205-209: AAS 85 (1993), 1112-1114.



      157 Address to the Cardinals and the Roman Curia (28 June 1985), 4: AAS 77

      (1985), 1151.



      158 Letter of 13 January 1970: Tomos Agapis, Vatican-Phanar (1958-1970),

      Rome-Istanbul, 1971, pp. 610-611.



      159 Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (10 November 1994), 20:

      AAS 87 (1995), 17.



      160 Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 755; Code of Canons of the Eastern

      Churches, Canon 902.



      161 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis

      Redintegratio, 5.



      162 On the Lord's Prayer, 23: CSEL 3, 284-285.






      Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana