· Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity ·
In October 2009, Harvesting the Fruits: Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue was published. This book gathers together the results of 40 years of bilateral dialogues between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Anglican Communion and the World Methodist Council, and also raises important questions for the future direction and content of ecumenical discussion. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity hosted a Symposium from 8 to 10 February 2010 on the issues presented in the book Harvesting the Fruits . Theologians from the Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican and Methodist traditions met at the offices of the Pontifical Council at the invitation of its President Cardinal Walter Kasper.
The aim of the Symposium was not merely to take account of the many elements of agreement produced by 40 years of official dialogue, but to consider ways of communicating this remarkable achievement to the members of all the various Christian communities, so they can express more fully in their lives the progress towards unity that has been made. Over the three days of discussion, there was detailed examination of the question of reception of joint statements and agreements, the need for the common witness of Christians at every level, and the changed context in which Christianity must undertake its mission.
The Symposium also looked ahead, to discern how ecumenical dialogue should take place in future. There was detailed consideration of the steps that must be taken towards the goal of ecumenism, which remains full and visible communion. As Cardinal Kasper reminded the participants, “What does communion mean in the theological sense? It does not mean community in the horizontal sense but communio sanctorum – what we might call vertical participation in what is ‘holy’, in the ‘holy things’ – that is, the Spirit of Christ present in his Word and in the sacraments administered by ministers .. duly ordained”.
The Symposium explored how traditional disagreements might be re-assessed if they are looked at in the context of Mission and the vision of God's Kingdom. There was mention of the new and promising approach whereby ecumenical dialogue is viewed as an exchange of gifts, and frank conversations were held on the limits of diversity and the role of the hierarchy of truths. Discussion also included practical proposals to encourage the search for unity, most particularly the production of a Common Statement of what we have achieved ecumenically. One possible form this might take would be a common affirmation of Baptismal faith, including a commentary on the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer.
Participants in the Symposium included those experienced in bilateral dialogues as well as younger theologians new to ecumenism. Theological discussion was at a high level, and the many positive suggestions that it produced will be taken forward to the Plenary of the Pontifical Council in November 2010. The participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to discuss in depth the real challenges encountered in the search for Christian unity, and affirmed that the ability to call together meetings of this nature is a particular potential of Rome, indicating the wider service that the Petrine ministry can offer to ecumenism.
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