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Επιστημονική Επετηρίδα Θεολογικής Σχολής (Τμήμα Ποιμαντικής), Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο, Θεσσαλονίκη 1992. (Τιμητικό Αφιέρωμα στον καθηγητή Ιωάννη Ορ. Καλογήρου).

1. A Movement toward Reconciliation

b. The Roman Catholic renewal

Another movement toward reconciliation has occurred between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the Reformation. The crucial turning point was Vatican ΙΙ (1962/65). Vatican Ι (1871) had brought the dogma of papal infallibility, and the reign of Pius XΙΙ the separatist dogma of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven (1950). Vatican ΙΙ, however, no longer defined doctrine in coutrast to the churches of the Reformation, but instead intently listened to their concerns. It marked the end of the Counter-Reformation and the official entry of the Roman Catholic Church into the mainstream of the ecumenical movement. Thus we hear in the opening sentence of the Decree on Ecumenism: "Promoting the restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the chief concerns of the Second Sacred Ecumenical Synod of the Vatican"(2). This change of heart resulted from a truly reforming spirit at the Council. Many tenets were accepted for which the Reformation parties had pressed. Studying the Bible in the best translations made from the original texts is encouraged. Scripture is seen as the well-spring af all truth, the laity are highly upgraded as the prime agents of evangelism, etc.

The opinions of non-Roman Catholic Christians were no longer automatically considered heretical. They were invited as official guests to the sessions and their advice was freely sought out. One no longer spoke of the one church, meaning the Roman Catholic Church, but also of other churches as those who are also adorned with the name of Christ. Since the Holy Spirit was recognized as being active in the ecumenical movement, the council exhorted "all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to participate skillfully in the work of ecumenism"(3). Participation in ecumenical ventures was no longer optional. Roman Catholics have a duty to participate in them. Since then they have participated in numerous ecumenical ventures including the Commission on Faith and Order (CFO) of the WCC. Vatican ΙΙ envisioned as the result of such endeavors "that, little by little, as the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion are overcome, all Christians will be gathered, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, into that unity of the one and only Church which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning"(4).

One of the earliest dialogues to emerge in the spirit of Vatican ΙΙ is the one between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutherans in the U.S.A. The dialogue began in 1965 as a semi-annual round of theological discussion under the auspices of the National Committee of the LWF and the Commission of Ecumenical Relations of the North American Bishops' Conference. It has semiofficial status and started with an issue on which there were apt to be minor differences, the status of the Nicene Creed as Dogma of the Church. The Lutheran-Catholic dialogue then investigated the significance of baptism and the Eucharist, and finally ventured to potentially divisive issues as the infallibility and primacy of the papacy and the doctrine of justification. An amazing consensus has so far been achieved.

There is no doubt that in some form or other many results of these dialogues filter down to the local level, whether in the form of educational materials or simply in the knowledge that the churches are growing closer together. The dialogues in the U.S.A. also influenced the global Roman Catholic/Lutheran discussions which have been taking place since 1967.

Much progress has been made in all of these dialogues. Nevertheless, we should still be cautious in our expectations. The Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue which took place from 1967 to 1981 reminds us of that hard truth. Significant agreements had been achieved on the Eucharist, the pastoral office, and the authority in the church. Ιn its final report the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission expressed the conviction that this agreement would not only express a growing convergence but be a stepping stone on the way to organic union(5). Ιn a joint statement at Canterbury Cathedral the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope John Paul ΙΙ promised to establish a new commission to continue the work begun, to examine the still existing differences, and to bring them to a resolution(6). The issuing of this rather promising statement of May 29, 1982 must, however, be seen in the light of previous events. One day after the Final Report was published a letter, dated March 30 and signed by Cardinal Ratzinger of the Sacred Congregation on the Doctrine of Faith and directed to the Roman Catholic co-chairman Bishop Alan D. Clark of the International Commission, claimed that the final report did not represent a "substantial agreement"(7). Ratzinger objected that some Roman Catholic doctrines had only been partly accepted by the Anglicans or not at all, some formulations were ambiguous and open to differing interpretations, and others were hardly agreeable to Roman Catholic teaching. After this ominous signal the Osservatore Romano published on May 6, 1982 the official response of the Congregation to the Final Report. It had been sent to the chairmen of the Roman Catholic bishops' conferences already on April 2 and was at least as critical as Ratzinger's letter(8). It criticized the statements on the Eucharistic change of the elements, the adoration of the sacrament, the ordination of women, papal infallibility, and apostolic succession.

Wolfhart Pannenberg has rightly noted that the criteria for evaluation as employed by the Congregation resembled more the tone of Vatican Ι and Trent than Vatican ΙΙ or more recent theological consensus(9). The Anglican communion is closer to Rome than most other Protestant communions, and the talks had reached the stage at which the dialogue should have been translated into action. Many of the agreements resemble in content the Lutheran-Roman Catholic documents on the Eucharist and on the priestly office, as well as the Lima document of 1982. Many people are now rightly worried that the road toward unity has suddenly been narrowed to a winding path.


2. «Decree on Ecumenism» (1), The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966), 341.

3. Ibid. (4), 347.

4. Ibid. (4), 348.

5. Cf. the excerpt of the Final Report (1982), in Dokumente wachsender Übereinstimmung. Sämtliche Berichte und Konsenstexte interkonfessioneller Gespräche auf Weltebene. 1931-1982, ed. and intr. Harding Meyer et al. (Paderborn: Bonifatius-Druckerei 1983), 189.

6. Cf. «Gemeinsame Erklärung des Papstes Johannes Pau1 ΙΙ. und des Primas der anglikanischen Kirchengemeinschaft, Erzbischof Robert Runcie», in ibid., 195.

7. Cf. «Glaubenskongregation: Vorbehalte zum anglikanisch-katholischen Schluίbericht», Herber Korrespondenz 36 (May Ι982): 241f., and Johannes Lόtticken, «Anatomie eines φkumenischen Dialogs. Zum Abschluίbericht der anglikanisch- katholischen Kommission», Herder Korrespondenz 36 (June 1982):297-301.

8. Cf. the translation of the response «Wo steht der anglikanisch-katholische Dialog? Eine Stellungnahme der Glaubenskongregation», Herder Korrespondenz 36 (June 1982): 288-293).

9. Cf. Wolfhart Pannenberg, «Der Schlußbericht der anglikanisch-romisch- katholischen Internationalen Kommission und seine Beurteilung durch die römische Glaubenskongregation», Kerygma und Dogma 29 (1983): 169ff.

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