January 26, 2015

OTTAWA – In the 50 years since the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism, observers see hopeful signs for ecumenism and interfaith dialogue under Pope Francis.

"Pope Francis uses language very frequently on how important it is to walk together with other Christians," said Saint Paul University professor Catherine Clifford, noting theological dialogues are being complemented "with initiatives of common witness."

"It's an invitation to do everything we possibly can together, not to wait for all 'i's to be dotted and 't's crossed and all the texts approved, but that we kind of live into the experience of mutual communion by beginning to act together today," she said.

"A central image of the Christian life for Pope Francis is the movement toward Christian unity – a movement that happens one step at a time," said Father Thomas Rosica, a Scripture scholar and CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic TV network.


"For Francis, it is not about waiting for others to catch up with us," Rosica said. "It is about everyone continuing to walk with and toward the Lord, supporting and learning from the brothers and sisters whom God places on the same path.

"The deeper we all grow in holiness, the closer we will be to one another."

Rosica spoke Jan. 17 to a Vancouver symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio).

Ecumenism is not simply a matter of cordiality or cooperation, he said. "The unity we seek requires inner conversion that is both common and personal."

Rosica said over the past 50 years the ecumenical movement has become commonplace for most Christians.

"While ecumenism hasn't yet achieved full reunion, it's still among the most visible, powerful, successful Christian movements of the late 20th century."

Clifford highlighted Pope Francis' meeting in Jerusalem last May with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.


In May, Pope Francis and the ecumenical patriarch issued a joint declaration that affirmed the continued desire for ecclesial unity, the pursuit of peace through reconciliation and dialogue and the promotion of interfaith dialogue.

The two met again in Istanbul when the pope visited Turkey in November. Clifford noted their joint statement spoke of "how important it is for churches to work in interfaith dialogue, especially with the people of Islam, in light of the violence in the Middle East."