Decree on Ecumenism

The Second Vatican Council promulgated a Decree on Ecumenism called “Unitatis Redintegratio” (which translates as “The Restoration of Unity”). This restoration of unity was one of the main concerns of the Council and this important document sets out the Church’s position regarding other Christians and the ways and means that all Catholics can respond to the call to unity.

In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis wrote that 'commitment to unity is an indispensable path to evangelization.’ #244-246

The goal is the reunion of all Christians into the unity of the Catholic Church, gathered “into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning”. An important advancement made by the Decree on Ecumenism is the positive regard for other Christians, not rejecting any of the Church's spiritual treasury because it arose among those separated, but applying the gospel principle, “whatever is done in My name”... “whoever is not against us is for us.” Mk 9.37-40. “Significant elements…can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, along with other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit and visible elements.”

The Council fathers urged 'all Catholic faithful to recognise the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part' in Christian unity. #4 Unitatis Redintegratio

The Decree on Ecumenism has led to numerous endeavours in the Diocese of Plymouth over the years with the appointment of a Catholic Ecumenical Officer, a post currently held by Mary Ann James. Some highlights of this work include:

  • In 2001 the diocese took part in ‘Together in a Common Life’, and open forum for Devon Church leaders.
  • In 2007 the Torbay Deanery Christian Unity Commission organised ‘Celebrate’, celebrating 40 years of dialogue between Roman Catholics and Methodists.
  • In 2009 there was the Ecumenical Symposium on St Paul entitled ‘Looking Behind the Letters’. Featuring a panel of speakers from different denominations.
  • ‘Together in Faith’ 2013. A Panel Evening with Bishop Christopher Budd and Church Leaders of the other denominations, each speaking from their own perspective.
  • Participation in the annual Week of Prayer for Unity in January.
  • Participation in Good Friday annual Walks of Witness.
  • Pentecost Taize Christian Unity services services held in Torquay in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Some of the key principles laid out by the document are:

  • Openness to reform – recognizing scope for renewal and reform within the Catholic Church.
  • Interior conversion – recognizing that individuals need to have the right attitude of heart.
  • Shared cooperation – for the common good of serving humanity.
  • Dialogue - to be ready to talk to others about differences, to listen to them explain their beliefs and to explain ours clearly and with no compromise of truth.
  • Prayer in common (non-Eucharistic) – commending common prayer where possible.