Cardinal Kasper reviews the situation of ecumenism today

Source: FSSPX News


In an era when “the term globalization characterizes our condition”, ecumenism also becomes “a response to the signs of the times”, affirmed Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, on February 22. His comments were reported by the Zenit news agency on February 26. In the context of a course given to graduate students on “the Church, Ecumenism and Religion” at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolorum of Rome, Cardinal Kasper declared that thanks to new possibilities offered by the means of communication, people are now closer, “whether they want to be or not, in the same boat”.

Separated Christians, Cardinal Kasper asserted, “do not normally consider each other as strangers, in competition”, but “brothers and sisters”. “They have overcome the lack of understanding which existed in the past” and have grasped that “what unites them is much greater than what divides them”.

The Cardinal added, however, that after “a certain euphoria” following the Second Vatican Council, ecumenism manifested signs of weariness, disillusion and inertia” to the point that certain people speak of a “new ecumenical winter”. The reason for this crisis, according to Cardinal Kasper can be found in the “current explorations concerning identity”, for “no one wants to be absorbed by a faceless amalgamation”.

The fact that, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium and in the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, it was declared that “the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church”, continued the Cardinal, “does not rule out the fact that there exists just as much beyond the visible structures of the Catholic Church Christians taken individually but also ecclesial elements which push toward unity”.

“The Holy Spirit is at work in the other churches and ecclesial communities”, Cardinal Kasper explained, recalling that, as John-Paul II affirmed in his encyclical Ut unum sint, “outside the limits of the Catholic community, there is not an ecclesial void”. “The Catholic Church, he continued, is wounded by the divisions in Christendom”, and just as much because of “the impossibility of completely and fully realizing her own catholicity”. For this reason, ecumenism is necessary, an ecumenism that “is not a one-way street, but a process of reciprocal apprenticeship”.

“The question is not just the conversion of others, but the conversion of all to Jesus Christ. Conversion always starts with oneself”, he declared, explaining “it is not a question of a simple return of the others to the sheepfold of the Catholic Church, but a mutual convergence”, for “when we come closer and closer to Christ, in Him we come closer and closer to each other”.

Concerning “the concrete ecumenical situation”, Cardinal Kasper explained that the Eastern Churches are “profoundly rooted in the life of their respective peoples and their culture”, adding that “through numerous persecutions they have preserved the apostolic faith and today demonstrate a great vitality”. “The Council recognized the Eastern Churches as particular Churches and sister Churches for they have the Eucharist, through which the Church of God is edified and built-up”, he emphasized.

“Despite a separation of 1500 years and all the differences, which are more cultural than dogmatic, these Churches have preserved the fundamental apostolic structure of the Church we have ourselves”, he recalled. According to the President of the Pontifical Council, the year 1054 “is only a symbolic date and not the beginning of a schism”, for “the East and the West received the Gospel message in different ways from the beginning and developed different traditions”. Despite this, “all lived in one Church”, he explained. The true cause of the separation was “the lack of mutual understanding and charity”.

Today we have trouble understanding one another on a “cultural” level, for the Eastern culture is ‘highly developed’ but has not experienced “either separation of Church and State or the modern era of the Enlightenment”.

After being liberated from Byzantine and then Ottoman domination, and then that of the Czars and Communism, the Eastern Churches today have new possibilities of development, but they have found themselves confronted with a “transformed world in which they must first find their way”. “All this requires time and patience”, explained Cardinal Kasper, recalling that “the only serious theological question discussed between us and the Orthodox Church is the Roman primacy”, which “represents the major obstacle for all non-Catholic Christians”, even if it has become “a point of reference for all Christendom”.

Speaking of the Christian communities of the Reform, Cardinal Kasper said he was “convinced that the improvement in our relations with the Eastern Churches was essential to overcome the divisions at the heart of Western Christendom”. In fact, because of the separation with the East, Latin Christendom “has in a certain way been breathing with only one lung and has been impoverished”, he explained.

The most controversial point with the Protestants is the question of the Church and the ministry. Even if one can perceive “different signs from our partners”, it is difficult to understand “in what direction they are oriented”. Recalling his recent participation in the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre (Brazil), the cardinal affirmed that the Catholic delegation was welcomed “in a most amicable way”, but that it seemed to him the members of the Council, “didn’t know which way to go”, which made the Catholic Church not know with whom to dialog.

In conclusion, regarding the parish level of ecumenism, Cardinal Kasper underscored the importance of “the dialogue of life” in a multicultural society today, which leads us every day into relations with people of other beliefs. “We can pray together”, he declared, “we can share spiritual experience”, “we can read the Bible together”.

This survey by the official head of ecumenism in Rome reiterates the errors denounced in the study by the Society of St. Pius X, “From Ecumenism to Silent Apostasy”, addressed to all the cardinals in January 2004, then to numerous bishops around the world. To date, this study has met with no response.