Ecumenical dialogue must present the timeless Faith frankly and constructively

From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (1984):

In the light of the [Second Vatican] council and of the magisterium of my predecessors, whose precious inheritance I have received and am making every effort to preserve and put into effect, I can affirm that the Catholic Church at every level is committed to frank ecumenical dialogue, without facile optimism but also without distrust and without hesitation or delays. The fundamental laws which she seeks to follow in this dialogue are, on the one hand, the conviction that only a spiritual ecumenism—namely an ecumenism founded on common prayer and in a common docility to the one Lord—enables us to make a sincere and serious response to the other exigencies of ecumenical action.126 The other law is the conviction that a certain facile irenicism in doctrinal and especially dogmatic matters could perhaps lead to a form of superficial and short-lived coexistence, but it could not lead to that profound and stable communion which we all long for. This communion will be reached at the hour willed by divine providence. But in order to reach it, the Catholic Church, for her part, knows that she must be open and sensitive to all “the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren”;127 but she also knows that she must likewise base a frank and constructive dialogue upon a clarity regarding her own positions and upon fidelity and consistency with the faith transmitted and defined in accordance with the perennial tradition of her magisterium. Notwithstanding the threat of a certain defeatism and despite the inevitable slowness which rashness could never correct, the Catholic Church continues with all other Christian brethren to seek the paths to unity, and with the followers of the other religions she continues to seek to have sincere dialogue. May this inter-religious dialogue lead to the overcoming of all attitudes of hostility, distrust, mutual condemnation and even mutual invective, which is the precondition for encounter at least in faith in one God and in the certainty of eternal life for the immortal soul. May the Lord especially grant that ecumenical dialogue will also lead to a sincere reconciliation concerning everything that we already have in common with the other Christian churches—faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, our savior and Lord; a listening to the word; the study of revelation and the sacrament of baptism.

To the extent to which the church is capable of generating active harmony—unity in variety—within herself and of offering herself as a witness to and humble servant of reconciliation with the other churches and ecclesial communities and the other religions, she becomes, in the expressive definition of St. Augustine, a “reconciled world.”128 Then she will be able to be a sign of reconciliation in the world and for the world.

126 Cf Unitatis Redintegratio, 7-8.
127 Ibid., 4.
128 St. Augustine, Sermo 96, 7: Patrologiae Cursus completus, Series Latina 38, 588.

Reconciliatio et Pænitentia 25

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