Christian Unity Octave
19/January/2009 Filed in: Jottings
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is always demanding. I have just been re-reading the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms of Ecumenism (see here
), mainly to remind myself of the special responsibilities of religious but also because I am unhappy at the narrow take on unity one often encounters. Unity means rather more than simply ignoring what one doesn't understand or share. I have always regretted that most serious ecumenical dialogue, as distinct from well-meaning but sometimes dire attempts at shared prayer/activity, tends to be the prerogative of the upper echelons of the Church. Partly I suppose that is a reflection of the ignorance of the "average believer" about what his/her Church actually teaches, but it is a pity. We have to remember that Christian unity isn't optional but essential. Persevering prayer is fundamental to the process of attaining that unity, but we also need to be honest about what divides as well as unites us. Paragraph 172 of the Directory sums this up very clearly: "Dialogue is at the heart of ecumenical cooperation and accompanies all forms of it. Dialogue involves both listening and replying, seeking both to understand and to be understood. It is a readiness to put questions and to be questioned. It is to be forthcoming about oneself and trustful of what others say about themselves. The parties in dialogue must be ready to clarify their ideas further, and modify their personal views and ways of living and acting, allowing themselves to be guided in this by authentic love and truth. Reciprocity and mutual commitment are essential elements in dialogue, as is also a sense that the partners are together on an equal footing. Ecumenical dialogue allows members of different Churches and ecclesial Communities to get to know one another, to identify matters of faith and practice which they share and points on which they differ. They seek to understand the roots of such differences and assess to what extent they constitute a real obstacle to a common faith. When differences are recognised as being a real barrier to communion, they try to find ways to overcome them in the light of those points of faith which they already hold in common."