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At the opening of a three-day symposium on the future of ecumenism, Walter Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, suggested the idea of creating an ‘ecumenical catechism’ as one of the products of 40 years of dialogue with Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and members of Reformed churches. The cardinal stressed the need to keep the fruits of the decades of dialogue alive and wishes to promote “an ecumenism of basics that identifies, reinforces and deepens the common foundation.” He fears that modern ecumenism “is perhaps in danger of becoming a matter for specialists and thus of moving away from the grassroots.”
It is as yet not really clear what the structure of this ecumenical catechism should be, but it does sound as if it is a good means to put the mutually shared tenets and beliefs in stone, so to speak. Once set, it could be a good foundation for further development.
Perhaps this ecumenical catechism can be coupled with a renewed effort to bring the cause of ecumenism back to the people. But if that happens, it will have to replace an existing idea of ecumenism as simply being together and sharing regardless of differences. Because that is the ecumenism as it is alive among many faithful now. There is a lack of knowledge of their identity, on both sides of the division.
Cardinal Kasper recognises the importance of not hiding the differences, when he says that we must not ignore the Catholic understanding of what the Church: “[T]he Catholic Church is the church of Christ and [...] the Catholic Church is the true church.” And the Catholic Church does believe that “there are deficits in the other churches. [...] Yet on another level there are deficits, or rather wounds stemming from division and wounds deriving from sin, also in the Catholic Church.”
The acknowledgement of differences and our own identity, as I have written before, is the only starting point for fruitful debate and ecumenism.