Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio is an important document, promulgated in November 1964, toward the end of the third council session. It deals with Christian disunity between East and West as well as between Roman and Reformation traditions.
It’s important to remember that “ecumenism” applies to Christians only. When we speak of Catholic (or Christian) relations with Judaism, Islam, Wicca, or other such non-Christian traditions, we have an “interfaith” issue, not an ecumenical one. We begin with a brief introduction before heading to our three chapters:
The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to (people) as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided.(Cf. 1 Cor. 1, 13.) Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.
These facts are important to consider. First, that the council bishops themselves saw ecumenism as a priority. And second, that the present-day Christian divisions are a scandal. In other words, a grave deviation from the expectations of believers and non-believers alike.
But the Lord of Ages wisely and patiently follows out the plan of grace on our behalf, sinners that we are. In recent times more than ever before, He has been rousing divided Christians to remorse over their divisions and to a longing for unity. Everywhere large numbers have felt the impulse of this grace, and among our separated (brothers and sisters) also there increases from day to day the movement, fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all Christians. This movement toward unity is called “ecumenical.” Those belong to it who invoke the Triune God and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, doing this not merely as individuals but also as corporate bodies. For almost everyone regards the body in which he has heard the Gospel as his Church and indeed, God’s Church. All however, though in different ways, long for the one visible Church of God, a Church truly universal and set forth into the world that the world may be converted to the Gospel and so be saved, to the glory of God.
The council bishops recognize God’s grace at work in the movements of the times. The bishops specifically speak of the “Holy Spirit” in terms of the surfacing of ecumenical concerns. If that’s not an explicit reference to something like the “spirit of Vatican II” (if not the Spirit) I can’t imagine what would be.
The Sacred Council gladly notes all this. It has already declared its teaching on the Church, and now, moved by a desire for the restoration of unity among all the followers of Christ, it wishes to set before all Catholics the ways and means by which they too can respond to this grace and to this divine call.
Any initial concerns or comments?