Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue

ECUMENISM AND INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

 INTRODUCTION

     1. Christ wills the unity of all who believe in him.  This he expressed in his prayer at the Last Supper: that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you… (Jn. 17:21).  This unity, which Christ desires, finds its fulfillment in the mystery of the Church that he established.  Through the Church, the world attains redemption and is united to Christ.  All these things are accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the utterly mysterious design of the Father since time immemorial.3

     2. The division among Christians in the present times openly contradicts the plan of God and the will of Christ.  The decree of the Second Vatican Council says that in the Church, throughout history, there arose certain rifts and dissensions for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.4  Nevertheless, these divisions continue to impede the realization of the mission of the Church today.

     3. At present the Catholic Church joins the common effort of the separated Churches to promote Christian unity.  This collaboration among different Churches is called “ecumenical movement.”  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ecumenical movement is the benevolent response of the Father to the desire and prayer of Christ and the Church, which is the unity of all Christians.5  By coming together for common prayer, action, response to the needs of society and peoples, and dialogue and analysis of the causes of division, the ecumenical movement advances Christian unity.6

     4. In line with the ecumenical movement, the Church also involves herself in the interaction and dialogue with different non-Christian religions.  In light of the truth that all peoples have God as their origin and destiny, and that all share in the same humanity, the Church recognizes and accepts the elements that reflect truth and engender holiness present in non-Christian religions.7  While witnessing to and professing faith in Christ, each particular Church must be open to interaction and dialogue with members of non-Christian religions such as Islam, Buddhism, indigenous groups, and other sects that are present in the midst of Christian communities.

     5. This document provides an opportunity towards a better understanding of the concept and activities of Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue in light of the vision of the diocese.  It has two chapters: (1) Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Diocese of Lucena, and (2) Means of Reconciliation, Unity, and Collaboration.

 CHAPTER I

ECUMENISM AND INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE IN THE DIOCESE OF LUCENA

 The Present Condition of Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Parishes

     6. Due to population growth, social progress, and the increasing numbers of immigrants who settle in the towns within the Diocese of Lucena, bringing along with them their own culture and beliefs, the pastoral and spiritual needs of the people continue to expand.  There are needs, however, that the Catholic Church, in some instances, fails to meet.  In consequence, many Catholics are driven into joining other sects and religions.

     7. In places where they live and work, Catholics, non-Catholic Christians, and members of other sects and religions interact with one another.  They are often brought together by common necessities as well as problems that the community at large is confronted with such as the spread of crimes, economic crisis, and disrespect for human life.  The bond formed by these factors is sometimes shattered by religious differences.  The way to unity should be Christ the one who became man and prayed to the Father for the unity of us all (Cf. Jn. 17:20-23)yet he has become the cause of discord and division.  The divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her sons who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her.

     8.  In the parish, the Catholic faithful have no formal interaction with non-Catholic Christians and members of other religions in matters of faith.  A probable reason of this is the fear that discussing the faith may lead to bitter conflict and disagreement.  The avoidance of discussions on matters of faith only deepens the misunderstanding, from which often springs an even worse problem in matters regarding the reception of the sacraments, for instance, in assuming the responsibility of godparents in Baptism, Confirmation, and Matrimony.

     9. As the members of fundamentalist groups continue to increase in number, it becomes inevitable for the Catholic faithful to argue with these people because of their different beliefs concerning religion and salvation.  It does not help either when these people criticize the things that Catholics hold in particular esteem such as the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

     10. The deficiency in properly addressing the aforesaid needs and the conflicts usually arising from disparate beliefs often cause problems for the Catholic Church as many of her members are drawn towards other religions.  Part of this problem is the misunderstanding of the differences and similarities of religions, which spreads the notion that one’s own faith is the only true religion and means of salvation, or that all religions are equal.

 CHAPTER II

MEANS OF RECONCILIATION, UNITY, AND COLLABORATION

     11. The ecumenical movement is a grace of God; it is given by the Father in response to the prayer of Jesus (Cf. Jn. 17:2).9  Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is called to commit himself to the advancement of the unity of all in Christ (Cf. Eph. 1:10).  Concrete means of promoting the ecumenical objectives are therefore of extreme importance.

     12. Under the leadership of the bishop to whose care the Second Vatican Council has entrusted the promotion of ecumenical practices,10 Catholics are enjoined to respond to the directives of their pastors in accordance with the provisions on ecumenism set by the Church.11  So that the bishop can be assured of assistance in this undertaking, he must appoint an official in the diocesan level or establish a diocesan commission on ecumenism,12 which will be tasked to supervise the proper execution of the various ecumenical activities and programs.

    13. The Council regards prayer as the most important element of ecumenism.  Moreover, it compels all Christians towards a change of heart and holiness of life.13  Through “spiritual ecumenism,” which is the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, the believer reaps the bountiful fruit of communal prayer.

     14. The experience of the diocese testifies to the importance of the common efforts of the members of the different Churches in promoting justice and peace.  Though divided by their beliefs, they are nonetheless united by their common objective, which is to uplift the dignity of both the human person and the whole creation.  A number of issues and problems demand the collaboration of all regardless of their religion:  promoting the dignity of the family, doing works of charity, addressing the problems of hunger and poverty, eradicating violence, and safeguarding the environment.

     15. The transformation of mind and heart is of invaluable help in the promotion of ecumenism.14  Hence, particular attention must be given to the ecumenical formation not only of priests, religious, and seminarians, but of the laity as well.15  This can be accomplished by instilling an ecumenical awareness in the formation of catechists and pastoral workers like teachers and religion instructors.  The topic of ecumenism should also be included in the catechism taught in schools and in the seminars conducted in the parishes.  A renewed and informed understanding of the doctrines of the Church, free from a narrow view of the different aspects of the faith, will be of help in the formation and growth of Catholics in their relationship with people who are not in full communion with the Church.

     16.  There are certain occasions when the Church permits Catholics to take part in some spiritual activities and celebration of the sacraments of the members of other Churches.16  This particular circumstance, however, requires that the faithful be provided with pastoral guidance and thorough instruction so that they can benefit from the richness of faith and tradition present in other Churches, without placing themselves in the peril of succumbing to indifferentism and syncretism. In like manner, careful attention must be given to the increasing number of cases of mixed marriages and disparity of cult so as to properly guide the faithful in their reception of the said sacrament.

 

MARY, THE INSPIRATION OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

     17. Holy Mother Church recognizes the truth that this holy objective the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ transcends human powers and gifts.19She firmly places her hope in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, referring to Jesus, told the servants at the wedding at Cana: Do whatever he tells you (Jn. 2:5).  Notwithstanding the obstacles along the way, the Church, joined with her separated brethren, does not waver from her fidelity to the desire and prayer of Christ that all may be one (Cf. Jn. 17:21).  

 

CALL TO ACTION

     In order to promote and ensure the growth of the ecumenical movement in the diocese, this synod recommends the following Call To Action (CTA).

     CTA-1. The resolution passed by the First Diocesan Synod of Lucena regarding the establishment of a Diocesan Commission on Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue shall be implemented.  Along this line, an intensive study on the psycho-pastoral approach to the topic of ecumenism shall be undertaken in order to properly situate it on the concrete circumstances of the life of the faithful.

     CTA-2. The Diocesan Commission on Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue, hereafter to be established, shall take charge of organizing pastoral plans and activities for the increasing number of Muslims, indigenous peoples (Aetas and others), and sects in Mount Banahaw.

     CTA-3. Particular attention shall be given to the formation of priests, religious women, seminarians, and laity with respect to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.  A select group of formators shall specialize in this field.

     CTA-4. The Joint Declaration of the Christian Churches stated in the official documents of the Church shall be included in the study of the doctrines of the Church in schools and parishes.

     CTA-5. The topic of Ecumenism shall be covered by the course on the Church (Ecclesiology) in the curriculum of seminaries, particularly the theologate.

 CTA-6. The importance of communal ecumenical prayer and gathering, particularly at the time set by the Church, namely, the Christian Unity Week, shall be properly stressed.  Pertinent information on this matter shall be disseminated among the parishes through radio, newspaper, and other forms of mass media.

     CTA-7. A proper line of action shall be adopted in order to intensify common efforts concerning social issues such as justice and peace, dignity of the family, poverty, hunger, and ecology.

     CTA-8. The Diocesan Commission on Worship shall draw up specific regulations on matters of worship and liturgical life that are related to ecumenism.

     CTA-9. A book containing clear guidelines on the Catholic Christians’ participation and involvement in the activities of the members of other Churches such as sending their children to non-Catholic schools but particularly in the rites of worship and the celebration of the sacraments, shall henceforth be published.

     CTA-10. In coordination with the member-schools of the Lucena Diocese Catholic Schools’ Association (LUDICSA), the diocese shall draw up regulations that will address issues concerning the admission of non-Catholic students or employees to Catholic schools or institutions.  Along this line, it is strongly recommended that the existing guidelines on the admission of non-Catholic students to Catholic schools be implemented.

     CTA-11. The Diocesan Commission on Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue, hereafter to be established, shall organize activities pertinent to dialogue with non-Christians such as Muslims and Buddhists.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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