Ecumenism Norms
Dec 31, 2007

Ecumenism Norms

Ecumenism Norms

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Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy

Pontifical Council for Christian Unity
March 25, 1993



1. The search for Christian Unity was one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. The Ecumenical Directory, called for during the Council and published in two parts, one in 1967 and the other in 1970,


"has given a most valuable service in directing, coordinating and developing the ecumenical effort".


Reasons for this Revision

2. Besides the publication of the Directory, numerous other documents that have a bearing on ecumenism have been published by competent authorities.


The promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church (1983) and of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (1990) has created in ecumenical matters a disciplinary situation for the faithful of the Catholic Church which is partly new.

In the same way, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" recently published (1992), includes the ecumenical dimension as part of the basic teaching for all the faithful of the Church.

3. Furthermore, from the time of the Council onwards fraternal relations with Churches and


Communities which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church have intensified; theological dialogues have been set up and have increased in number. In his discourse to the plenary session of the Secretariat (1988), which was dedicated to the revision of the Directory, the Holy Father noted that "the breadth of the ecumenical movement, the multiplication of dialogue statements, the urgent need that is felt for a greater participation by the whole People of God in this movement, and the consequent necessity of accurate doctrinal information, in view of a proper commitment, all of this requires that up-to-date directives be given without delay".


It is in this spirit and in the light of these developments that the revision of this Directory has been made.

To Whom is the Directory Addressed

4. The Directory is addressed to the Pastors of the Catholic Church, but it also concerns all the faithful, who are called to pray and work for the unity of Christians, under the direction of their Bishops. The Bishops, individually for their own dioceses, and collegially for the whole Church, are, under the authority of the Holy See, responsible for ecumenical policy and practice.


5. At the same time it is hoped that the Directory will also be useful to members of Churches and ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. They share with Catholics a concern for the quality of ecumenical activity. It will be an advantage for them to know the direction those guiding the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church wish to give to ecumenical action, and the criteria that are officially approved in the Church. It will help them to evaluate the initiatives that come from Catholics, so as torespond to them adequately, and will also help them better to understand the Catholic res- ponses to their initiatives. It should be kept in mind that the Directory does not intend to deal with the relations of the Catholic Church with sects or with new religious movements.


Aim of the Directory

6. The new edition of the Directory is meant to be an instrument at the service of the whole Church and especially of those who are directly engaged in ecumenical activity in the Catholic Church. The Directory intends to motivate, enlighten and guide this activity, and in some particular cases also to give binding directives in accordance with the proper competence of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.


In the light of the experience of the Church in the years since the Council and taking account of the present ecumenical situation, the Directory brings together all the norms already established for implementing and developing the decisions of the Council given up to the present and brings them up to date when necessary. It strengthens the structures that have been developed for the support and guidance of ecumenical activity at every level of the Church. While fully respecting the competence of authorities at different levels, the Directory gives orientations and norms of universal application to guide Catholic participation in ecumenical activity. Their application will provide consistency and coordination to the various practices of ecumenism by which particular Churches


and groups of particular Churches respond to their different local situations. It will guarantee that ecumenical activity throughout the Catholic Church is in accordance with the unity of faith and with the discipline that binds Catholics together.

In our day there exists here and there a certain tendency to doctrinal confusion. Also it is very important in the ecumenical sphere, as in other spheres, to avoid abuses which could either contribute to or entail doctrinal indifferentism. The non-observance of the Church’s directives on this matter creates an obstacle to progress in the authentic search for full unity among Christians. It is the task of the local Ordinary and of the Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches to see to it that the principles and norms contained in the Ecumenical Directory are faithfully applied, and with pastoral concern to take care that all possible deviations from them are avoided.

Outline of the Directory

7. The Directory begins with a declaration of the commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenism (Chapter I). This is followed by an account of the steps taken by the Catholic Church to put this commitment into practice. It does this through the organization and formation of its own members (Chapters II and III). It is to them thus organized and formed, that the provisions of Chapters IV and V on ecumenical activity are addressed.

I. The Search for Christian Unity

The ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church based on the doctrinal principles of the Second Vatican Council.

II. Organization in the Catholic Church at the Service of Christian Unity

Persons and structures involved in promoting ecumenism at all levels, and the norms that direct their activity.

III. Ecumenical Formation in the Catholic Church

Categories of people to be formed, those responsible for formation; the aim and methods of formation; its doctrinal and practical aspects.

IV. Communion in Life and Spiritual Activity Among the Baptized

The communion that exists with other Christians on the basis of the sacramental bond of Baptism, and the norms for sharing in prayer and other spiritual activities, including in particular cases sacramental sharing.

V. Ecumenical Cooperation, Dialogue and Common Witness

Principles, different forms and norms for cooperation between Christians with a view to dialogue and common witness in the world.

8. Thus, in a time of increasingly marked secularization, which calls Christians to common action in their hope for the Kingdom of God, the norms that regulate relations between Catholics and other Christians and the different forms of collaboration they practice are laid down, so that the promotion of the unity desired by Christ may be sought in a balanced and consistent way, in the line of, and according to the principles established by the Second Vatican Council.


9. The ecumenical movement seeks to be a response to the gift of God’s grace which calls all Christians to faith in the mystery of the Church according to the design of God who wishes to bring humanity to salvation and unity in Christ through the Holy Spirit. This movement calls them to the hope that the prayer of Jesus "that they all may be one" will be fully realized.


It calls them to that charity which is the new commandment of Christ and the gift by which the Holy Spirit unites all believers. The Second Vatican Council clearly asked Catholics to reach out in love to all other Christians with a charity that desires and works actively to overcome in truth whatever divides them from one another. For the Council, Catholics are to act in hope and in prayer to promote Christian unity. They will be prompted and instructed by their faith in the mystery of the Church, and their ecumenical activity will be inspired and guided by a true understanding of the Church as "a sacrament or instrumental sign of intimate union with God, and of unity of the whole human race".


10. The teaching of the Church on ecumenism, as well as the encouragement to hope and the invitation to love find their official expression in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and especially in

Lumen Gentium


Unitatis Redintegratio

. Subsequent documents about ecumenical activity in the Church, including the Ecumenical Directory (1967-1970) build on the theological, spiritual and pastoral principles stated in the conciliar documents. They have explored more fully some topics indicated in the conciliar documents, developed theological terminology and provided more detailed norms of action, all based, however, on the teaching of the Council itself. All of this furnishes a body of teachings which will be presented in outline in this chapter. These teachings constitute the base of this Directory.

The Church and its Unity in the Plan of God

11. The Council situates the mystery of the Church within the mystery of God’s wisdom and goodness which draws the whole human family and indeed the whole of creation into unity with himself.


To this end, God sent into the world His only Son, who was raised up on the cross, entered into glory and poured out the Holy Spirit through whom he calls and draws into unity of faith, hope and charity the people of the New Covenant which is the Church. In order to establish this holy Church in every place until the end of the ages, Christ entrusted to the college of the Twelve to which he chose Peter as head, the office of teaching, ruling and sanctifying. It is the will of Jesus Christ, that through the faithful preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and through government in love exercised by the apostles and their successors under the action of the Holy Spirit, this people should grow and its communion be made ever more perfect.


The Council presents the Church as the New People of God, uniting within itself, in all the richness of their diversity, men and women from all nations, all cultures, endowed with manifold gifts of nature and grace, ministering to one another and recognizing that they are sent into the world for its salvation.


They accept the Word of God in faith, are baptized into Christ and confirmed in his pentecostal Spirit, and together they celebrate the sacrament of his body and blood in the Eucharist:

"It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity. By distributing various kinds of spiritual gifts and ministeries, he enriches the Church of Jesus Christ with different functions, ‘in order to equip the saints for the work of service, so as to build up the Body of Christ’ ".


12. The People of God in its common life of faith and sacraments is served by ordained ministers: bishops, priests and deacons.


Thus united in the three- fold bond of faith, sacramental life and hierarchical ministry, the whole People of God comes to be what the tradition of faith from the New Testament


onwards has always called koinoniacommunion. This is a key concept which inspired the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council,


and to which recent teaching of the magisterium has given great importance.

The Church as Communion

13. The communion in which Christians believe and for which they hope is, in its deepest reality, their unity with the Father through Christ in the Spirit. Since Pentecost, it has been given and received in the Church, the communion of saints. It is accomplished fully in the glory of heaven, but is already realized in the Church on earth as it journeys towards that fullness. Those who live united in faith, hope and love, in mutual service, in common teaching and sacraments, under the guidance of their pastors


are part of that communion which constitutes the Church of God. This communion is realized concretely in the particular Churches, each of which is gathered together around its Bishop. In each of these "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and alive".


This communion is, by its very nature, universal.

14. Communion between the Churches is maintained and manifested in a special way in the communion between their Bishops. Together they form a college which succeeds the apostolic college. This college has as its head the Bishop of Rome as successor of Peter.


Thus the Bishops guarantee that the Churches of which they are the ministers continue the one Church of Christ founded on the faith and ministry of the apostles. They coordinate the spiritual energies and the gifts of the faithful and their associations, towards the building up of the Church and of the full exercise of its mission.

15. Each particular Church, united within itself and in the communion of the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church, is sent forth in the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to more and more people, offering to them this communion with God. In accepting it, these persons also enter into communion with all those who have already received it and are constituted with them in an authentic family of God. Through its unity this family bears witness to this communion with God. It is in this mission of the Church that the prayer of Jesus is being fulfilled, for he prayed "May they all be one, Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me".


16. Communion within the particular Churches and between them is a gift of God. It must be received with joyful thanks and cultivated with care. It is fostered in a special way by those who are called to minister in the Church as pastors. The unity of the Church is realized in the midst of a rich diversity. This diversity in the Church is a dimension of its catholicity. At times the very richness of this diversity can engender tensions within the communion. Yet, despite such tensions, the Spirit continues to work in the Church calling Christians in their diversity to ever deeper unity.

17. Catholics hold the firm conviction that the one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church "which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him".


They confess that the entirety of revealed truth, of sacraments, and of ministry that Christ gave for the building up of his Church and the carrying out of its mission is found within the Catholic communion of the Church. Certainly Catholics know that personally they have not made full use of and do not make full use of the means of grace with which the Church is endowed. For all that, Catholics never lose confidence in the Church. Their faith assures them that it remains "the worthy bride of the Lord, ceaselessly renewing herself through the action of the Holy Spirit until, through the cross, she may attain to that light which knows no setting".


Therefore, when Catholics use the words "Churches", "other Churches", "other Churches and ecclesial Communities" etc., to refer to those who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church, this firm conviction and confession of faith must always be kept in mind.

Divisions among Christians and the Re-establishing of Unity

18. Human folly and human sinfulness however have at times opposed the unifying purpose of the Holy Spirit and weakened that power of love which overcomes the inherent tensions in ecclesial life. From the beginning of the Church certain rifts came into being. Then more serious dissensions appeared and the Churches in the East found themselves no longer in full communion with the See of Rome or with the Church of the West.


Later in the West more profound divisions caused other ecclesial Communities to come into being. These ruptures had to do with doctrinal or disciplinary questions and even with the nature of the Church.


The Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council recognizes that some dissensions have come about "for which often enough men of both sides were to blame".


Yet however much human culpability has damaged communion, it has never destroyed it. In fact, the fullness of the unity of the Church of Christ has been maintained within the Catholic Church while other Churches and ecclesial Communities, though not in full communion with the Catholic Church, retain in reality a certain communion with it. The Council affirms: "This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time".


The Council documents refer to those elements that are shared by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches


on the one hand, and the Catholic Church and other Churches and ecclesial Communities on the other:


"The Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation".


19. No Christian, however, should be satisfied with these forms of communion. They do not correspond to the will of Christ, and weaken his Church in the exercise of its mission. The grace of God has impelled members of many Churches and ecclesial Communities, especially in the course of this present century, to strive to overcome the divisions inherited from the past and to build anew a communion of love by prayer, by repentance and by asking pardon of each other for sins of disunity past and present, by meeting in practical forms of cooperation and in theological dialogue. These are the aims and activities of what has come to be called the ecumenical movement.


20. The Catholic Church solemnly pledged itself to work for Christian unity at the Second Vatican Council. The Decree Unitatis Redintegratio explains how the unity that Christ wishes for his Church is brought about "through the faithful preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles and their successorsthe Bishops with Peter’s successor at their headthrough their administering the sacraments, and through their governing in love", and defines this unity as consisting of the "confession of one faith,… the common celebration of divine worship,… the fraternal harmony of the family of God".


This unity which of its very nature requires full visible communion of all Christians is the ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement. The Council affirms that this unity by no means requires the sacrifice of the rich diversity of spirituality, discipline, liturgical rites and elaborations of revealed truth that has grown up among Christians in the measure that this diversity remains faithful to the apostolic Tradition.


21. Since the time of the Second Vatican Council ecumenical activity in the entire Catholic Church has been inspired and guided by various documents and initiatives of the Holy See and, in particular Churches, by documents and initiatives of Bishops, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences. Also to be noted is the progress made in different kinds of ecumenical dialogue and in the manifold forms of ecumenical collaboration undertaken. Ecumenism has, in the words of the Synod of Bishops of 1985, "inscribed itself deeply and indelibly in the consciousness of the Church".


Ecumenism in the Life of Christians

22. The ecumenical movement is a grace of God, given by the Father in answer to the prayer of Jesus


and the supplication of the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit.


While it is carried out within the general mission of the Church to unite humanity in Christ, its own specific field is the restoration of unity among Christians.


Those who are baptized in the name of Christ are, by that very fact, called to commit themselves to the search for unity.


Baptismal communion tends towards full ecclesial communion. To live our Baptism is to be caught up in Christ’s mission of making all things one.

23. Catholics are invited to respond according to the directives of their pastors, in solidarity and gratitude with the efforts that are being made in many Churches and ecclesial Communities, and in the various organizations in which they cooperate, to reestablish the unity of Christians. Where ecumenical work is not being done, or not being done effectively, Catholics will seek to promote it. Where it is being opposed or hampered by sectarian attitudes and activities that lead to even greater divisions among those who confess the name of Christ, they should be patient and persevering. At times, local Ordinaries,


Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches


and Episcopal Conferences may find it necessary to take special measures to overcome the dangers of indifferentism or proselytism.


This may especially be needed in the case of young Churches. In all their contacts with members of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, Catholics will act with honesty, prudence and knowledge of the issues. This readiness to proceed gradually and with care, not glossing over difficulties, is also a safeguard against succumbing to the temptations of indifferentism and proselytism, which would be a failure of the true ecumenical spirit.

24. Whatever the local situation, if they are to be able to carry out their ecumenical responsibilities, Catholics need to act together and in agreement with their Bishops. Above all they should know their own Church and be able to give an account of its teaching, its discipline and its principles of ecumenism. The more they know these, the better they can present them in discussions with other Christians and give sufficient reason for them. They should also have accurate knowledge of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities with whom they are in contact. Careful note must be taken of the various prerequisites for ecumenical engagement that are set out in the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council.


25. Because ecumenism with all its human and moral requirements is rooted so profoundly in the mysterious working out of the providence of the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, it reaches into the depths of Christian spirituality. It calls for that "change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians", that the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council calls "spiritual ecumenism", and regards as "the soul of the ecumenical movement".


Those who identify deeply with Christ must identify with his prayer, and especially with his prayer for unity; those who live in the Spirit must let themselves be transformed by the love that, for the sake of unity, "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things";


those whose lives are marked by repentance will be especially sensitive to thesinfulness of divisions and will pray for forgiveness and conversion. Those who seek holiness will be able to recognize its fruits also outside the visible boundaries of their own Church.


They will be led to know, truly, God as the one who alone is able to gather all into unity because he is the Father of all.

The Different Levels of Ecumenical Activity

26. The opportunities and requirements of ecumenical activity do not present themselves in the same way within the parish, in the diocese, within the ambit of a regional or national organization of dioceses, or at the level of the universal Church. Ecumenism requires the involvement of the People of God within the ecclesial structures and the discipline appropriate to each of these levels.

27. In the diocese, gathered around the Bishop, in the parishes and in the various groups and communities, the unity of Christians is being constructed and shown forth day by day:


men and women hear the Word of God in faith, pray, celebrate the sacraments, serve one another, and show forth the Gospel of salvation to those who do not yet believe.

However, when members of the same family belong to different Churches and ecclesial Communities, when Christians cannot receive Communion with their spouse or children, or their friends, the pain of division makes itself felt acutely and the impulse to prayer and ecumenical activity should grow.

28. The fact of bringing together particular Churches, belonging to the Catholic communion, to form part of bodies such as Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences, manifests the communion that exists between those Churches. These assemblies can greatly facilitate the development of effective ecumenical relations with the Churches and ecclesial Communities in the same area that are not in full communion with us. As well as a common cultural and civic tradition, they share a common ecclesial heritage dating from the time before the divisions occurred. Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences can deal more representatively with these regional or national factors in ecumenism than may be possible for a particular Church, and so may they be able to establish organizations for building up and coordinating ecumenical resources and efforts within the territory, in such a way as to support the activities of particular Churches and help them to follow a coherent Catholic direction in their ecumenical activities.

29. It belongs to the College of Bishops and to the Apostolic See to judge in the final instance about the manner of responding to the requirements of full communion.


It is at this level that the ecumenical experience of all the particular Churches is gathered and evaluated; necessary resources can be coordinated for the service of communion at the universal level and among all the particular Churches that belong to this communion and work for it; directives are given which serve to guide and regulate ecumenical activities throughout the Church. It is often to this level of the Church that other Churches and ecclesial Communities address themselves when they wish to be in ecumenical relation with the Catholic Church. And it is at this level that ultimate decisions about the restoration of communion must be taken.

Complexity and Diversity of the Ecumenical Situation

30. The ecumenical movement seeks to be obedient to the Word of God, to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to the authority of those whose ministry it is to ensure that the Church remains faithful to that apostolic Tradition in which the Word of God and the gifts of the Spirit are received. What is being sought is the communion that is at the heart of the mystery of the Church, and for this reason there is a particular need for the apostolic ministry of Bishops in the area of ecumenical activity. The situations being dealt with in ecumenism are often unprecedented, and vary from place to place and time to time. The initiatives of the faithful in the ecumenical domain are to be encouraged. But there is need for constant and careful discernment by those who have ultimate responsibility for the doctrine and the discipline of the Church.


It belongs to them to encourage responsible initiatives and to ensure that they are carried out according to Catholic principles of ecumenism. They must reassure those who may be discouraged by difficulties and moderate the imprudent generosity of those who do not give sufficiently serious consideration to the real difficulties in the way of reunion. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose role and respon- sibility it is to provide direction and advice on ecumenical activity, offers the same service to the whole Church.

31. The nature of the ecumenical activity undertaken in a particular region will always be influenced by the particular character of the local ecumenical situation. The choice of appropriate ecumenical involvement pertains especially to the Bishop who must take account of the specific responsibilities and challenges that are characteristic for his diocese. It is not possible to review here the variety of situations but a few rather general comments can be made.

32. In a predominantly Catholic country the ecumenical task will emerge differently from that arising in one which has a high proportion or a majority who are Eastern Christians or Anglicans or Protestants. The task is different again in countries where the majority is non-Christian. The participation in the ecumenical movement by the Catholic Church in countries with a large Catholic majority is crucial if ecumenism is to be a movement that involves the whole Church.

33. Likewise the ecumenical task will greatly vary depending on whether our Christian partners belong mostly to one or more of the Eastern Churches rather than to the Communities of the Reformation. Each has its own dynamic and its own particular possibilities. There are many other factors, political, social, cultural, geographical and ethnic, which can give distinct shape to the ecumenical task.

34. The particular local context will always furnish the different characteristics of the ecumenical task. What is important is that, in this common effort, Catholics throughout the world support one another with prayer and mutual encouragement so that the quest for Christian unity may be pursued in its many facets in obedience to the command of Our Lord.

Sects and New Religious Movements

35. The religious landscape of our world has evolved considerably in recent decades and in some parts of the world the most noticeable development has been the growth of sects and new religious movements whose desire for peaceful relations with the Catholic Church may be weak or non-existent. In 1986, a report


was published jointly by four dicasteries of the Roman Curia which draws attention to the vital distinction that must be made between sects and new religious movements on the one hand and Churches and ecclesial Communities on the other. Further studies are in progress on this question.

36. The situation in regard to sects and new religious movements is highly complex and differs from one cultural context to another. In some countries sects are growing in a cultural climate that is basically religious. In other places they are flourishing in societies that are increasingly secularized but at the same time credulous and superstitious. Some sects are non-Christian in origin and in self-understanding; others are eclectic; others again identify themselves as Christian and may have broken away from Christian Communities or else have links with Christianity. Clearly it is especially up to the Bishop, the Synod of Eastern Catholic Churches or the Episcopal Conference to discern how best to respond to the challenge posed by sects in a given area. But it must be stressed that the principles for spiritual sharing or practical cooperation outlined in this Directory only apply to the Churches and ecclesial Communities with which the Catholic Church has established ecumenical relations. As will be clear to the reader of this Directory, the only basis for such sharing and cooperation is the recognition on both sides of a certain, though imperfect, communion already existing. Openness and mutual respect are the logical consequences of such recognition.



37. Through its particular Churches, the Catholic Church is present in many localities and regions in which it lives together with other Churches and ecclesial Communities. Such regions have their distinctive spiritual, ethnic, political and cultural characteristics. In many cases one finds in these regions the highest religious authority of other Churches and ecclesial Communities: these regions often correspond to the territory of a Synod of Eastern Catholic Churches or of an Episcopal Conference.

38. Therefore, a Catholic particular Church, or several particular Churches, acting closely together may find themselves in a very favourable position to make contact with other Churches and ecclesial Communities at this level. They may be able to establish with them fruitful ecumenical relations which contribute to the wider ecumenical movement.


39. The Second Vatican Council specifically entrusted the ecumenical task "to the Bishops everywhere in the world for their diligent promotion and prudent guidance".


This directive, which has already been acted upon often by individual Bishops, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences, has been incorporated into the Canon Law of the Latin Church, canon 755, which states:

§ 1. It is within the special competence of the entire college of Bishops and of the Apostolic See to promote and direct the participation of Catholics in the ecumenical movement, whose purpose is the restoration of unity among all Christians, which the Church is bound by the will of Christ to promote.

§ 2. It is likewise within the competence of Bishops and, in accord with the norms of law, of Conferences of Bishops to promote the same unity and to issue practical norms for the needs and opportunities presented by diverse circumstances in light of the prescriptions of the supreme Church authority.

For the Eastern Catholic Churches the CCEO, cann. 902-904, § 1 affirms:

Can. 902: Since concern for the restoration of the unity of all Christians belongs to the entire Church, all Christian faithful, especially pastors of the Church, shall pray for that fullness of unity desired by the Lord and work zealously participating in the ecumenical work brought about by grace of the Holy Spirit.

Can. 903: The Eastern Catholic Churches have a special duty of fostering unity among all Eastern Churches, first of all through prayers, by the example of life, by the religious fidelity to the ancient traditions of the Eastern Churches, by better knowledge of each other, and by collaboration and brotherly respect in practice and spirit.

Can. 904: 1. The undertakings of the ecumenical movement in every Church sui iuris are to be diligently encouraged by special norms of particular law, while the Apostolic Roman See directs the movement for the universal Church.

40. In the light of this special competence for promoting and guiding ecumenical work, it is the responsibility of the individual diocesan Bishop, or of Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches or of Episcopal Conferences to establish norms according to which the persons or commissions described below are to carry out the activities ascribed to them and to oversee the implementation of these norms. Furthermore, care should be taken that those to whom these ecumenical responsibilities are to be assigned have a proper knowledge of the Catholic principles of ecumenism and are seriously prepared for their task.

The Diocesan Ecumenical Officer

41. In the dioceses, the Bishop should appoint a competent person as diocesan officer for ecumenical questions. Heshe will serve as the animator of the diocesan ecumenical Commission and coordinate the Commission’s activities as indicated below in n. 44 (or carry them out if such a Commission does not exist). As a close collaborator of the Bishop and with suitable assistance, this person will encourage various initiatives in the diocese for prayer for Christian unity, will work to see that ecumenical attitudes influence the activities of the diocese, identify special needs and keep the diocese informed about these. This officer is also responsible for representing the Catholic community in its relations with the other Churches and ecclesial Communities and their leaders and will facilitate contacts between the latter and the local Bishop, clergy and laity on various levels. Heshe will serve as counselor on ecumenical issues for the Bishop and other offices of the diocese and will facilitate the sharing of ecumenical expe- riences and initiatives with pastors and diocesan organizations. This officer will see to the maintenance of contacts with officers or commissions of other dioceses. Even in areas where Catholics are in majority, or in those dioceses with limited personnel or resources, it is recommended that such a diocesan officer be appointed to carry out the activities mentioned above in so far as these are possible or appropriate.

The Diocesan Ecumenical Commission or Secretariat

42. In addition to the diocesan officer for ecumenical questions, the diocesan Bishop should set up a council, commission or secretariat charged with putting into practice any directives or orientations he may give and, in general, with promoting ecumenical activity in the diocese.


Where circumstances call for it, several dioceses grouped together may form such a commission or secretariat.

43. The commission or secretariat should reflect the totality of the diocese and generally include among its members clergy, religious men and women and lay people of various competencies, and especially those with particular ecumenical expertise. It is desirable that representatives of the presbyterial council, the pastoral council, diocesan and regional seminaries be included among the members of the commission or secretariat.

This commission should cooperate with such institutions or ecumenical initiatives as already exist, or are to be set up, making use of their help where the occasion presents itself. It should be ready to support the ecumenical officer and to be available to other diocesan work and individual initiatives for mutual exchange of information and ideas. Of particular concern should be contacts with parishes and parish organizations, with the apostolic initiatives being conducted by members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, and with movements and associations of lay people.

44. Besides the other functions already assigned to it, the commission should:

a) put into practice the decisions of the diocesan Bishop for implementing the teaching and directives of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism, as well as those of the post-conciliar documents emanating from the Holy See, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences;

b) maintain relations with the territorial ecumenical commission (cf. below), adapting the latter’s recommendations and advice to local conditions. When circumstances suggest, information about experiences and their results as well as other useful information should be sent to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity;

c) foster spiritual ecumenism according to the principles given in the conciliar Decree on Ecumenism and in other sections of this Directory about public and private prayer for the unity of Christians;

d) offer help and encouragement by such means as workshops and seminars for the ecumenical formation of both clergy and laity, for the appropriate realization of an ecumenical dimension to all aspects of life, and giving special attention as to how seminary students are prepared for the ecumenical dimension of preaching, catechetics and other forms of teaching, and pastoral activity (e.g., pastoral care in mixed marriages) etc.;

e) promote friendliness and charity between Catholics and other Chris- tians with whom full ecclesial communion does not yet exist according to the suggestions and guidelines given below (especially nn. 205-218);

f) initiate and guide conversations and consultations with them, bearing in mind the adaptation to be observed in accordance with the diversity of the participants and subjects of dialogue;


g) propose experts to undertake dialogue on the diocesan level with other Churches and ecclesial Communities;

h) promote, in collaboration with other diocesan bodies and with other Christians joint witness to Christian faith, to the extent that this is possible, as well as cooperation in such areas as education, public and private morality, social justice, matters connected with culture, learning and the arts;


i) propose to the Bishops the exchange of observers and guests on the occasion of important conferences, synods, installation of religious leaders and other similar occasions.

45. Within the dioceses, parishes should be encouraged to participate in ecumenical initiatives on their own level and, where possible to set up groups which are responsible to carry out these activities (cf. below, n. 67); they should remain in close contact with the diocesan authorities, exchanging information and experience with them and with other parishes and other groups.

The Ecumenical Commission of Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences

46. Each Synod of the Eastern Catholic Churches and each Episcopal Conference, in accordance with its own procedures, should establish an episcopal commission for ecumenism, assisted by experts, both men and women, chosen from among the clergy, religious and laity. If possible, the commission should be assisted by a permanent secretariat. This commission, whose method of work will be determined by the statutes of the synod or conference, should have a man- date to give guidance in ecumenical affairs and determine concrete ways of acting in accordance with existing church legislation, directives and legitimate customs and the concrete possibilities of a given region. It should take into account the circumstances of place and persons of the territory with whom they are concerned, as well as the concerns of the universal Church. Where the size of an Episcopal Conference does not permit the establishment of a commission of Bishops, at least one Bishop should be named to assume responsibility for the ecumenical tasks indicated in n. 47.

47. The functions of this commission will include those listed under n. 44 above, insofar as they enter into the competence of the Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches or Episcopal Conferences. In addition, it should carry out other tasks, of which some examples are given here:

a) putting into practice the norms and instructions issued by the Holy See in these matters;

b) giving advice and assistance to Bishops who are setting up an ecumenical commission in their dioceses, and encouraging cooperation among the diocesan ecumenical officers and commissions themselves by sponsoring, for example, periodic gatherings of officers and representatives from diocesan commissions;

c) encouraging and, where indicated, assisting the other commissions of the Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches in taking account of the ecumenical dimension of the latter’s work, public statements, etc.;

d) promoting cooperation among Christians, for example by giving spiritual and material help, where possible, to both existing ecumenical institutions and to ecumenical initiatives to be fostered in the field of instruction and research or in that of pastoral care and the deepening of Christian life according to the principles set out in the conciliar Decree on Ecumenism, nn. 9-12;

e) establishing consultations and dialogue with the church leaders and with Councils of Churches which exist on a national or territorial (as distinct from the diocesan) level and providing adequate structures for these dialogues;

f) appointing those experts who, by an official mandate of the Church, will participate in the consultations and dialogues with experts of the various Churches and ecclesial Communities, and with the organizations mentioned above;

g) maintaining relations and active cooperation with the ecumenical structures established by institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life and with those of other Catholic organizations within the territory;

h) organizing the exchange of observers and guests on the occasion of important ecclesial convocations and similar events at the national or territorial levels;

i) informing the Bishops of the Conference and of the Synods about the developments of the dialogues taking place in the territory; sharing this information with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome, so that mutual exchange of advice, experience and the results of dialogue can promote other dialogues on different levels of the life of the Church;

j) in general, maintaining relations in ecumenical matters between the Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches or Episcopal Conferences and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome, as well as with the ecumenical commissions of other territorial Conferences.

Ecumenical Structures within other Ecclesial Contexts

48. Supernational bodies which exist in various forms for assuring cooperation and assistance among Episcopal Conferences should also establish some structures for ensuring the ecumenical dimension of their work. The scope of their activities and the form these may take will be determined by the statutes and procedures of each of their bodies and the concrete possibilities of the territory.

49. Within the Catholic Church, certain communities and organizations exist which have a specific place in contributing to the apostolic life of the Church. While they do not immediately form part of the ecumenical structures described above, their work very frequently has an important ecumenical dimension which should be organized into adequate structures according to the fundamental purposes of the organization. Among these communities and organizations are found institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life and various organizations of Catholic faithful.

Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

50. While the concern for restoring Christian unity involves the whole Church, clergy and laity alike,


religious orders and congregations and societies of apostolic life, by the very nature of their particular commitments in the Church and the contexts in which they live out these commitments, have significant opportunities of fostering ecumenical thought and action. In accordance with their particular charisms and constitutionssome of which antedate the divisions among Christiansand in the light of the spirit and aims of their institutes, they are encouraged to put into practice, within the concrete possibilities and limits of their rules of life, the following attitudes and activities:

a) to foster an awareness of the ecumenical importance of their particular forms of life in as much as conversion of heart, personal holiness, public and private prayer and disinterested service to the Church and the world are at the heart of the ecumenical movement;

b) to contribute to an understanding of the ecumenical dimensions of the vocation of all Christians to holiness of life by offering occasions for developing spiritual formation, contemplation, adoration and praise of God andservice to one’s neighbour;

c) taking account of the circumstances of place and persons, to organise meetings among Christians of various Churches and ecclesial Communities for liturgical prayer, for recollection and spiritual exercises, and for a more profound understanding of Christian spiritual traditions;

d) to maintain relations with monasteries or communities of common life in other Christian Communions for an exchange of spiritual and intellectual resources, and experiences in apostolic life, since the growth of the religious charisms in these Communions can be a positive factor for the whole of the ecumenical movement. This can provide a fruitful spiritual emulation;

e) to conduct their many varied educational institutions with a view to ecumenical activity in accordance with the principles presented further on in this Directory;

f) to collaborate with other Christians in the areas of common work for social justice, economic development, progress in health and education, the safeguarding of creation, and for peace and reconciliation among nations and communities;

g) insofar as religious conditions permit, ecumenical action should be encouraged, so that, "while avoiding every form of indifferentism, or confusion and also senseless rivalry, Catholics might collaborate with their separated brethren, insofar as it is possible, by a common profession before the nations of faith in God and in Jesus Christ, and by a common, fraternal effort in social, cultural, technical and religious matters, in accordance with the Decree on Ecumenism. Let them cooperate, especially, because of Christ their common Lord. May his Name unite them!".


In carrying out these activities, they will observe the norms for ecumenical work which have been established by the diocesan Bishop, the Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches or Episcopal Conferences as an element of their cooperation in the total apostolate of a given territory. They will maintain close contacts with the various dioceses or national ecumenical commissions and, where indicated, with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

51. To assist this ecumenical activity, it is very opportune that the various institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life establish, on the level of their central authorities, a delegate or a commission charged with promoting and assisting their ecumenical engagement. The function of these delegates or commissions will be to encourage the ecumenical formation of all the members, aid the specific ecumenical formation of those who have particular offices and act as advisors for ecumenical affairs to the various general and local authorities of the institutes and societies, especially for initiating or carrying forward the activities described above (n. 50).

Organizations of Faithful

52. Organizations of Catholic faithful in a particular territory or nation, as well as those of an international character having as their objectives, e.g., spiritual renewal, action for peace and social justice, education at various levels, economic aid to countries and institutions, etc., should develop the ecumenical aspects of their activities. They should see that the ecumenical dimensions of their work be given adequate attention and expression even, if necessary, in their statutes and structures. In carrying out their ecumenical activities, they should remain in contact with territorial and local ecumenical commissions and, where circumstances indicate it, with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity for fruitful exchanges of experiences and advice.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

53. At the level of the universal Church, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a department of the Roman Curia, has the competence and the task of promoting full communion among all Christians. The Constitution Pastor Bonus (cf. n. 6 above) states that it promotes, on the one hand, the ecumenical spirit and action within the Catholic Church and, on the other hand, it cultivates relations with the other Churches and ecclesial Communities.

a) The Pontifical Council is concerned with the proper interpretation of the principles of ecumenism, and the means of putting them into effect; it implements the decisions of the Second Vatican Council with regard to ecumenism; it encourages and assists national or international groups which promote the unity of Christians and helps coordinate their work.

b) It organizes official dialogues with other Churches and ecclesial Communities on the international level; it delegates Catholic observers on the international level; it delegates Catholic observers to conferences or meetings of these bodies or of other ecumenical organizations and invites observers from them to meetings of the Catholic Church, whenever this is judged opportune.

54. To fulfil these functions, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at times issues directives and guidelines applicable to the entire Catholic Church. Furthermore, it maintains contacts with the Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences, with their ecumenical commissions, and with the Bishops and organizations within the Catholic Church. The coordination of the ecumenical activities of the entire Catholic Church requires that these contacts be reciprocal. It is therefore appropriate that the Council be informed of important initiatives taken at var

The Editors