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Ecumenism 40 years after the Council

Over 250 people from Catholic and other Christian traditions gathered at Mondo Migliore outside Rome from 11 – 13 November to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenism, “Unitatis reditengratio”.
It was an occasion both to celebrate the ground breaking document as well as to pause for reflection about what has been achieved, and what still needs to be done.

Australia was represented by Cardinal Edward Cassidy, former President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as by Bishop Michael Putney, Archbishop John Bathersby, and Archbishop Peter Carnley, Anglican Archbishop of Perth.

During three days of speeches and discussion, culminating in a marvelous Vesper prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica, led by Pope John Paul II, participants from every corner of the world prayed together and shared their reflections in smaller regional groups. The progress made in the 40 years since the Council was remarkable. Everywhere, barriers between Christians have been removed, as in country after country Christians seek to work together to promote the Kingdom of God.

At the same time the participants realized how much further Christians still need to go before they can reach the full visible unity for which they yearn, and for which Christ prayed so passionately. At the same time there was no sense of a stalled ecumenical movement, but rather of a deep desire fuelled by Christian hope to move forward into the future with energy and optimism. This spirit of optimism was captured by Cardinal Kasper in his final address to the assembly before we journeyed together to the tomb of Saint Peter to pray with Pope John Paul II for wisdom and courage as we set out to celebrate the golden anniversary of the decree in 2014. A theme that recurred constantly at the conference and was highlighted once again by Pope John Paul II in his homily at Vespers was that of “Communion” – the unity we already share together in our belief in a Trinitarian God and our entry into Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism.

The next ten years will see further remarkable growth in untity as together we explore the mystery of “Communion”. Based on ever deeper reflection about this mystery, and driven in the Archdiocese of Brisbane by our 2005 Lenten study programme led by our ecumenical commission, I believe great things will happen. Indeed, as the Pope continues to remind us time and time again, ecumenism is integral to being a Christian, it is not an optional extra, to be taken or left as we see fit.

The evangelizaton, needed so badly in today’s very secular world, will never happen unless Christians can show to the world the unity for which Christ prayed at the Last Supper. Therefore, let us do everything possible at an Archdiocesan and parish level to make this a reality in 2005.

Archbishop John A. Bathersby

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