Translation from the original Spanish text
Pontifical Council for promoting christian unity
Seminar on Ecumenism
We, the President Bishops and Executive Secretaries of the Commissions for Ecumenism of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, gathered together in Mexico City from 4th to 6th August 1998, under the Presidency of His Eminence Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy. Also present were His Excellency Monsignor Pierre Duprey, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Chrisitan Unity, and Reverend Father Juan Usma, staff member for Latin America. The goal of our meeting was to share time together in prayer, reflection and planning regarding the ecumenical work undertaken in our countries.
We have been joined in this important Seminar by representatives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States (NCCB), the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias (CLAI), and the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC), each of whom has shared with us his experience in the field of ecumenism. The participation of the President and Secretary General of CELAM and of staff members of the Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue Section of this ecclesial organisation (SECUM-CELAM) represents a sign of the interest and urgency of the ecumenical commitment in the continent.
During the meeting, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, Monsignor Pierre Duprey and Monsignor José Luis Lacunza, Bishop responsible for SECUM, outlined the irrevocable commitment of the Church in the search for unity. We were informed about the present state of relations with other Churches and Ecclesial communities at the international level, as well as about the history, development and future planning regarding ecumenism in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In the conviction that the ecumenical way is the way of the Church (cf. the Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n.7), we traced the path undertaken by our Churches in the search for Christian unity. The developments which have taken place in our countries have coincided with moments of enthusiasm, of anxiety and, at times, of discouragement. Moreover, there are great differences from place to place with regard to history, sensitivity, advances, and challenges. We can nonetheless affirm that ecumenical work is underway. The journey is not easy: it is a via crucis as well as a journey of hope . The experience of some of our Churches leads us to seek more creative ways to fulfil the will of the Lord: "may they all be one" (Jn 17:21).
It is necessary for us to deepen our understanding of the ecumenical commitment, just as it is necessary to strengthen the commitment of our pastors and faithful in the dialogue with other Churches and Ecclesial communities. We outline the following priorities amongst those to be undertaken by our Churches in the ecumenical field:
to create the necessary local structures which will enable us to incorporate ecumenism within the pastoral ministry of our Churches at the local, national and regional levels. In this perspective, the Episcopal Conferences are called to establish a special commission for ecumenism, and consequently to nominate at the diocesan level a delegate who will undertake the responsibilities associated with this task;
b) to develop initiatives for ongoing ecumenical formation at all levels: clergy, religious, seminarians, catechists and lay persons. In this context, a fundamental role is attributed to the pastor of the local Church since ecumenical commitment is an integral part of the episcopal ministry;
c) to collaborate in the defence of life and the promotion of human dignity, thereby fostering ecumenical collaboration in the social sphere, in which it is always possible to find a common ground in the search for unity;
d) to foster the sense of spiritual ecumenism and to highlight the ecumenical dimension of spirituality as an essential component of being a Christian;
e) to avail of both the liturgical year and particular social events in order to give common Christian witness;
f) to ensure that the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" in which many Churches are actively involved has a privileged (although not exclusive) place in the life of the Christian communities;
g) to continue the development of the biblical apostolate, as the Bible is the privileged meeting point between Christians;
h) to provide for encounters between professors of ecumenism, those responsible for formation in seminaries, and theology students; these encounters should include possibilities for an exchange with representatives of other Churches in order to incorporate the ecumenical dimension in all aspects of formation;
i) to receive in individual Churches the outcomes of international and national theological dialogues, contributing to their development at the local level through dissemination and theological reflection;
to redefine the panorama of Christian pluralism in the continent in order to clarify the aims of ecumenism, differentiating it from interreligious dialogue and the phenomenon of sects. Of equal importance is a clearer understanding of the various expressions of evangelicalism and pentecostalism;
k) to ensure that ecumenism is embraced as a commitment of all the members of the Church, in order to narrow the gap between the directives and documents of the magisterium and pastoral practice, avoiding at the same time that the impact of ecumenism is reduced to the action of small groups or individual charisms.
We express our deepest gratitude to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which convened this meeting and facilitated its proceedings. We trust that this collaboration may be a sign of continued contact in terms of support and encouragement for our ecumenical undertaking.
It is our hope that ecumenism becomes an essential dimension of the Church and not simply an optional activity. As Pope John Paul II has affirmed: «To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Fathers plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christs prayer: "Ut unum sint"» (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n.9).
We trust that our Churches will become increasingly aware that the underlying motive for the search for Christian unity is the fulfilment of Christs will.
United in prayer in the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, we invoke the Holy Spirit to give life to our work so that we may proclaim to all, with credibility, the Gospel of Christ.
Mexico City, 6th August 1998, Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ.