Inviting Christians from other traditions to share in ecumenical encounter and dialogue, such as in ‘faith-sharing’ meetings, small communities or other and projects for study groups, must not be seen or used as an exercise in persuading them to become Catholic. We invite fellow Christians as friends and neighbours to take part so that we can learn from them, and so that our own Catholic faith will become more profound. We hope too that they can learn from us and share our great traditions with the result that we become closer friends on the path to unity. As Pope John Paul recognised:
The Church should invoke the Holy Spirit with ever greater insistence, imploring… the grace of Christian unity. This is a crucial matter for our testimony to the Gospel before the world. Especially since the Second Vatican Council many ecumenical initiatives have been undertaken with generosity and commitment: it can be said that the whole activity of the local churches and of the Apostolic See has taken on an ecumenical dimension in recent years (Tertio Millennio Adveniente 34).
The suggestions and guidance on these web pages are a resource for parishes, priests and people, including the ecumenical contact, to further these initiatives - deepening their spirituality and their effectiveness in serving Christ’s world and witnessing to him before it. Some possible ideas for parish groups and small communities could be:
- To develop an Advent Service, or a Ascension-Pentecost celebration
- To initiate or reinvigorate the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
- To plan joint pastoral, social and mission work
- To strengthen local Churches Together Groups
- To consider ongoing small communities, for spirituality, faith-sharing and ecumenical learning, among Christians of the various churches and traditions locally.
The fruitfulness of any ecumenical outreach and collaboration depends on prayer and long-term advance planning, with a wide range of people involved. The ecumenical dimension of our discipleship as Catholics is so important that conversation, preparation and planning with other Christian leaders needs to be deep, to think long ahead, and to be marked by confidence, patience and trust.
Any ecumenical events or programmes are truly ecumenical in nature when they are prepared and celebrated together. Other Christian communities that are invited to share in the development of our life and mission are more likely to support or take part in its implementation. A key person in such planning will be the Parish Ecumenical Contact, who should benefit from special pastoral, practical and training, support and guidance in this vital task.
The Diocese experienced many gifts in its discovery of small communities for faith-sharing in our renewal programme in 2004-5, At Your Word, Lord. They were considerably enriched by ecumenical participation. For guidance on setting up and running a faith-sharing Small Community in the parish, visit the webpages of the Agency for Evangelisation on this website. For advice and ideas on the ecumenical dimension of small communities and other parish groups, visit our Parish Ecumenism (link when built) section.