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Vatican II wanted ecumenical commitment to be an essential part of the Church's mission

The Year of Faith which Pope Benedict XVI has given us is closely connected with the Second Vatican Council not only from the temporal viewpoint but also by its content. It was in fact inaugurated on the day of the commemoration of the opening of the Council 50 years ago and was motivated by the intention to put its principal magisterial affirmations into practice, seeing them as the crucial reference point for the mission of the Church in our day too. These affirmations include the ecumenical commitment, assumed by the Catholic Church – which is no secondary theme of the Council but one of its main priorities – as we can already read in the first sentence of the Decree on Ecumenism: “The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council” (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 1).

The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church recalls that ecumenical efforts are closely connected with  missionary work because the division of Christians is prejudicial to the holy task of preaching the Gospel and “deprives many people of access to the faith” (Ad Gentes, n. 6). Moreover the ecumenical commitment pervades the whole of the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, as can be deduced in particular from its concluding paragraphs: “At the same time our thoughts go out to those brothers and communities not yet living in full communionn with us; yet we are united by our worship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and the bonds of love” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 92). Above all there is a deep connection between the Decree on Ecumenism and the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in which the foundations of faith of the Catholic Church's ecumenical commitment are to be found.  Ecumenism is quite different from a matter of mere ecclesial policy or a purely pragmatic issue; rather, it is intrinsic to the faith itself. For this reason the Year of Faith also calls us to actualize the foundations of faith of the Church's ecumenical endeavour and to reinforce them anew, in the face of a profoundly changed ecumenical situation.

Kurt Koch
January 18, 2013

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