Fifty years of Communion and Liberation / Ecumenism

Unity, Unity! The Action of a People

A dimension intrinsic to the Christian faith: this is ecumenism in the experience of the Church. So the adequate subject of ecumenical action is the holy People of God. Interview with Cardinal Angelo Scola

edited by Roberto Fontolan

What is ecumenism if not an encounter between persons? Lying beyond the necessary technicalities, and often abstract principles, dialogue is the possible prophetic unity amongst the religious confessions–which, in its fundamental substance overcomes even the distinctions between Christians and non-Christians, since it is rooted in the “communion” of the religious sense–is a fact of experience, of friendship, of forms, places and occasions; and of history. From this point of view, the city of Venice is certainly a capital of ecumenism. For over a thousand years, it has been a bridge between worlds (between east and west, north and south), a frontier city, and those frontiers are frequently crossed and inhabited. Traces spoke about ecumenism with the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola

What should we understand today by the word “ecumenism”?

It is a term that indicates a dimension intrinsic to the Christian faith. So we can say that, in one sense, the word “ecumenism” includes both the dialogue with the Churches and the Christian confessions, and the so-called inter-religious dialogue. If it is a dimension, then it is clear that every gesture by one of the faithful can be considered “ecumenical”: the encounter with Jesus Christ, who is the living and personal truth, opens up man’s reason and freedom, enabling him to recognize and value every manifestation of it.

So, is ecumenism not a matter for specialists?

When the Pope met the Patriarch Teoctist in Rome, he quite rightly recalled the touching experience in Bucharest, when the people began to cry out, “Unitate, unitate!” This experience made it evident that the adequate subject of ecumenical action is the holy People of God.
The function of doctrinal discussions, of common moments and exchanges between Christian communities, just as the common defence of justice, of peace and of creation, take on all their meaning only if, in the end, it is a people, as religious subjects, which is in action.

And what does this mean for Christians?

For Christians, this affirmation is the only one that can affirm the pastoral nature–in other words, the day-to-day, normal nature–of ecumenism. Every action of the Christian community is ecumenical, such as the celebration of the Eucharist, catechesis and charitable action, when it is presented in its wholeness.
In this perspective, it will be, moreover, possible for an adequate pastoral method to balance and evaluate times and moments for activities common to the various Christian Churches and confessions, and to the polyhedral religious families.

How is this dimension lived out in the Patriarchate of Venice?

The ecumenical vocation of the Church that is in Venice is clearly indicated by numerous and precise circumstances and relationships. Down the centuries, Christians of various Churches and confessions and people of other religions have come to Venice. They have loved this singular city and have taken up residence here, struck by the imaginative initiative of the inhabitants who have given rise to an imposing history. And it is not only history, but the present of these fellow Christians that urges the Venetian Church, and the Church in the whole of the Venetian region, both coastal and inland areas, in this direction.
Our ecumenical vocation is the presupposition for that inter-religious relationship that the presence and the history of our elder brothers, the Jews, and that of the children of other Abrahamite religions and all the religious realities provoke us to.
In this picture belongs the mission–at the same time historical and actual–that Venice has, in today’s secularized society, toward those who declare themselves atheists or non-religious, or mean to behave as a-religious.
In order to respond to this vocation, the Patriarchate is called first and foremost to rethink the depth of the ecumenical dimension of its daily proposal of Christian life.