Mumbai Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) | ECUMENISM


2nd January, 2017
Mr. Francis D'souza (Courtesy Charisindia Magazine) ECUMENISM
As I was pondering over this topic the following questions came to my mind:
  1. What is Ecumenism?
  2. Is it Catholic?
  3. Is it for me?
  4. Is it important, if so why?
To put this topic in perspective we need to see what “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” is all about. It is an International Christian Ecumenical Observance kept annually between 18th January (feast of the chair of St. Peter) and 25th January (feast of the conversion of St. Paul). It is actually an octave, that is, an observance lasting eight days.
The search for Christian Unity was one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council (11th October 1962 – 8th December 1965). In the same way, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" published in 1992, includes the ecumenical dimension as part of the basic teaching for all the faithful of the Church. Cardinal L. J. Suenens in Malines Document 2 defines “Ecumenism as a movement which is a confluence of the convergent efforts of Christians who, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, desire to restore the visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ.” This octave of prayer lends support in carrying further the work of Ecumenism. It is also an opportunity for all the Christian Churches to meet at least once a year.
Jesus wanted his followers to remain ever united and thus be a sign of unity in a divided world (John 17:20-23). This unity should have been made visible enough to challenge the world to believe in Jesus. The sad thing however is that the Church itself is divided into numerous factions, groups and denominations. This is the result of the divisive mentality and lack of humility among the followers of Jesus. Furthermore, different temperaments and various cultures have added to the problem, hence much prayer coupled with love and understanding is required to restore unity. 
Moreover, by pursuing the call of Ecumenism we will be obeying the word of God which requires us to preserve the unity of the spirit (Eph 4:3)
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”. (John 17:20-23)
The above scripture is the heart-cry of Jesus and can be called the foundation of Ecumenism and two important conclusions flowing from it are as follows:
Firstly, by becoming one we show the world that we belong to Jesus.
Secondly, by becoming one we show the world that Jesus came from the Father.
Evangelization is our greatest call and this we conclude from the words of Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of Evangelii Nuntiandi “She exists in order to evangelize,…..” Cardinal Suenens quotes Pope Paul VI as saying “the power of evangelization will find itself considerably diminished if those who proclaim the Gospel are divided among themselves in all sorts of ways.” It is now left to us to conclude the importance of Ecumenism for effective Evangelization. 
Ecumenism, as we can see is urgent, important and at the heart of the Church but let us pay attention to what Fr Fio Mascarenhas SJ, erstwhile chairman of ICCRS writes in his very helpful book ‘Handbook for Leaders’:
“Great delicacy and discernment must be used lest what the Spirit is doing in all the churches to bring Christians together be extinguished, and a similar delicacy and charity must be exercised lest the ecumenical dimension of the Renewal be an occasion of divisiveness and a stumbling block. Sensitivity to the needs and views of other Christians should not make Catholics less authentically committed to their own tradition.”
Some simple suggested steps for Ecumenism are as follows:
  1. Know your faith:
This will keep us from wavering with every wind and doctrine.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph 4:14)
In fact one of the urgencies of Ecumenism is Catechizing of Christians.
  1. Appreciate the faith of non-Catholic Christians
There are many difficulties in the way of union of all Christians, but all true Christians are somewhat united with Christ in faith and love. We can understand then that outside the Catholic Church are found valuable elements, and even the sacred rites of the other churches lead to a communion with the Lord. The Spirit of Christ does not refrain from making use of them as a means of salvation. (Summary of the Vatican teachings of Vatican II)
  1. Pray about it:
We must make Ecumenism the subject of our prayer.
The fruit of Silence is prayer.
The fruit of Prayer is faith.
The fruit of Faith is love.
The fruit of Love is service.
The fruit of Service is peace. St (Mother) Teresa of Kolkata
Considering the complications in the way of unity among the Christian Churches, it is only prayer that will help in bringing about the much needed love and understanding to resolve this issue.  
  1. Pray together with non-Catholic Christians
The well known saying “The family that prays together stays together” holds so true here as we are members of God’s family. Through prayer alone will we be able to seek ways to unite.
The right attitude to Ecumenism from the words of Pope John XXIII
“We don’t intend to conduct a trial of the past; we don’t want to prove who was right and who was wrong. All we want to say is: Let us make an end of our divisions.
I pray, O Lord, reveal to me
If I have caused disunity,
You would have Your children one
In praise and love for Your dear Son.