Ecumenism, from the Greek word “oikoumene,” meaning “the whole inhabited world,” is the promotion of cooperation and unity among Christians.
“Ecumenism is, first of all, an act of faith that opens completely new horizons before us. It is an act of faith similar to Abraham, who departed by the light of the stars toward the land that the Lord pointed out to him. But how to reach this land? Like Abraham we have a light that illumines us from above, namely our absolute trust in the God of history, who guides us to our goal. To this light we ought to entrust ourselves, and then ecumenism will become for us a profound education in faith.” Sofia Cavalletti – Read Sofia’s Perspective on CGS AS A CONTINUUM
Today, the Ecumenical movement has been brought about by the conviction that a divided Christianity is a scandal to the world. The term was introduced in 1919 by Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931) Swedish Lutheran archbishop; he received the Nobel Prize in 1930, which was the first such recognition of a religious leader. In The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd®, we have been drawn together for the love of God and the love of our children. Sectarian concerns move to the background, though the pain of eucharistic division continues.
Essentiality, a characteristic of the child, has guided both the choice of subjects and the catechesis methodology. Essentiality also appears to be a force for unity among Christians. Several things that could impede ecumenical progress are beginning to be overcome in The Good Shepherd Catechesis. In the past three decades, there has been extensive dialogue among the churches at national and international levels, but often when some consensus is reached there, the reception among churches at the local level is minimal. The catechesis network is a community ready and eager to receive the concrete suggestions for church fellowship that result from ecumenical agreements. Sometimes ecumenism at the local level is dependent on chance events: the comings and goings of the local priest or rector, a parishioner with strong interests in ecumenism. Though it is not really an institution, the catechesis gives some stamina and security to ecumenical efforts and provides some grass-roots models. The ecumenical aspect of the catechesis was a great surprise to everyone.
We have questions about the historical roots of the division, about the disciplines of the several churches, like the discipline regarding intercommunion; theological questions – scriptural, liturgical, ecclesial, doctrinal. We continue to ask these questions and as we continue to study and learn from each other. We stand together, and we proclaim God’s praise for so many gifts:
- The gift of the knowledge that our unity is in what is essential.
- The gift that the children guide us all as we work.
- The gift of ecumenical perspective that informs our formation courses.
- The gift of growing esteem and respect for our diverse traditions.
- The gift of our continued attempts, despite past failings, to eliminate any words, judgments, or actions that could make our mutual relations difficult.
- The gift of morning prayer and evening prayer.
And finally, the gift of our different traditions, which, rather than being an obstacle, have made The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd® even more comely, more beautiful. Ours is a simple work and a somewhat hidden work with children. But it could be a greater work than we realize. In the nineteenth century, the very hidden work of missionaries gave birth to the modern ecumenical movement. Missionaries realized that the division of the Christian churches undermined the credibility of the gospel. In the twentieth century, the hidden work at the desks of scripture scholars led to the historical-critical methods of scripture study and much collaboration across denominational lines. In the twenty-first century, our hidden work with children, begun by Sofia and Gianna, may prove to be another of God’s instruments designed to bring new life and new energy to the ecumenical movement.
We will wait and see and continue to work all together.
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is open to all Christians of various denominations and of different commitments within the church. #29 Characteristics of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd offers its services to the diocese and therefore works in communion with the bishop. #30 Characteristics of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Ecumenism is not just a branch of catechesis; rather, the spirit of ecumenism does permeate the whole of catechesis. (p. 123 Religious Potential of the Child, 6-12 years)
“so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:21-23
General Ecumenical Resources
(CCT) in the USA was developed as a forum in which Christian Churches could form new relationships with other Churches. Founded in September 2001 and officially announced in April 2002, CCT brings together a diverse group of Christian Churches in order that “all who believe will be one with God and one another, so that the world may believe in Him as Lord and Savior.” CCT meets annually to pray and worship together, to build relationships of trust, and to discern challenges that need to be addressed in society in order to strengthen the collective Christian witness to the world.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church committed herself irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture….” [Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, #3]. The BCEIA and the Secretariat support this vital commitment. In a dozen formal dialogues and in a host of less formal conversations, the BCEIA and the SEIA seek to fulfill this commitment. The commitment is intrinsic to Catholic identity. The work and hope of the committee is to come to a deeper understanding with the members of other religious groups and together build a strong civil community.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, “so that the world may believe.” (John 17:21)
The Lima Text This famous text, adopted by Faith and Order at its plenary commission meeting in Lima, Peru in 1982, explores the growing agreement – and remaining differences – in fundamental areas of the churches’ faith and life. The most widely-distributed and studied ecumenical document, BEM has been a basis for many “mutual recognition” agreements among churches and remains a reference today.
USCCB On the Path Toward Christian Unity A 14-part video series that explores the multi-faceted world of ecumenism and its relevance in the world.
Patriarchal and Synodical Encyclical of 1920 The encyclical of the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Germanos of Constantinople “To the Churches of Christ Everywhere” suggested a “fellowship of churches” similar to the League of Nations.
Decree On Ecumenism The Second Vatican Council solemnly promulgated this Decree on Ecumenism,. The Document states in its Introduction that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only”, and that division contradicts the will of the Lord, “scandalizes the world and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel…. The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council” (n. 1).
Pope John Paul II Encyclical: Ecumenism is the “way of the Church” (Ut Unum Sint, n. 7). It is neither an addition nor some sort of appendix, but an integral, organic part of the life and pastoral activity of the Church (cf. Ut Unum Sint, n. 20). In this eschatological perspective, the ecumenical movement is closely connected to the missionary movement.
Apostolic Exhortation, Holy Father Francis, Social Dialogue as a Contribution to Peace Ecumenism can be seen as a contribution to the unity of the human family, pilgrims journeying alongside one another which means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face.
USCCB Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation The Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation USA began meeting in 1965 to address the theological issues that divided the churches. It currently meets twice a year under the leadership of Episcopalian co-chairman Bishop John Bauerschmidt and Catholic co-chairman Bishop Ronald Herzog. Over the past forty-six years the consultation has issued statements on issues ranging from the Eucharist, to the ordination of women, church authority, and Christian ethics in ecumenical dialogue.
USCCB Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs – North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation meets twice a year and is co-chaired by Archbishop Tobin of Indianapolis and Metropolitan Methodios of Boston.
Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops was first convened in 1981 and included seven bishops from each church.
USCCB Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs – United Methodist-Catholic Dialogue The United Methodist-Catholic Dialogue was established in 1966. Over the years it has discussed a wide range of issues from education and ordained ministry to the Eucharist. The recently-concluded seventh round of the dialogue, which was co-chaired by United Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker and Catholic Bishop William Skylstad, examined concern for the environment in a Eucharistic perspective. An eighth round is currently in preparation.
USCCB Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs – Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the United States first met in 1965. In 2010, the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue completed a common statement entitled “The Hope of Eternal Life” which explored in depth the common belief of Catholics and Lutherans in Jesus Christ’s promise of eternal life. The dialogue currently meets twice a year with Bishop Lee Piché and Rev. Lowell Almen serving as co-chairs.