There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.
Confreres should seek ecumenical dialogue; and they should also actively participate in religious, social, and cultural affairs with Christians and non-Christians.
Working for the establishment of the unity of all Christians is the work of the entire Church—both the faithful and pastors; and this labor makes different demands on each one according to his or her own situation1. Therefore, ecumenism is an important work of the Congregation of the Mission, and within the Company, some of its members should serve as models in the ecumenical apostolate: like Saint Justin de Jacobis and Monsieur Portail, for example, who were pioneers in the ecumenical movement.
1. That All May Be One
All Christians are conscious of Jesus’ desire to reach the fullness of unity. As a response, the ecumenical movement was born within the Church. It consists of:
… those activities and enterprises which, according to various needs of the Church and opportune occasions, are started and organized to foster unity among Christians. They are: first, an effort to eliminate all words, judgments, and actions which do not treat our separated brothers and sisters truthfully or fairly, and so make mutual relations among us more difficult; second, ‘dialogue’ between competent experts from different Churches and Communities. In their meetings, which are organized in a religious spirit, each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and brings out clearly its distinctive features. Through such dialogue, everyone gains more accurate knowledge and a fuller appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both Communions2.
2. Cooperation Is the Expression of Unity
There are many ways to obtain unity among Christians: the renewal of the Church, conversion of heart, prayer, shared knowledge, ecumenical formation, the way we express our faith3; finally, as stated in Statute #4, collaboration:
Since, in our times, cooperation in social matters is very widely practiced, all people without exception are summoned to united effort. Those who believe in God have a stronger summons, but the strongest claims are laid on Christians, since they have been sealed with the name of Jesus. Cooperation among all Christians vividly expresses that bond which already unites them, and it sets the features of Christ the Servant in clearer relief. Such cooperation, which has already begun in many countries, should be ever increasingly developed, particularly in regions where a social and technical evolution is taking place. It should contribute to a just appreciation of the dignity of the human person, the promotion of the blessings of peace, the application of Gospel principles to social life, and the advancement of the arts and sciences in a Christian spirit. Christians should also work together to use every possible means to relieve the afflictions of our times, such as famine and natural disaster, illiteracy and poverty, the lack of housing and the unequal distribution of wealth. Through such cooperation, all believers in Christ can easily learn how to understand each other better and esteem each other more, and how the road to the unity of Christians may be made smooth4.
3. Meekness, Humility and Patience Are the Soul of this Unity
Saint Vincent also acquainted us with delicate ecumenical work. He told Monsieur DuCoudray that he had converted three people and that the virtues of meekness, humility and patience had been the soul of this conversion5. To another priest, he said that the work of the Mission with the Huguenots was going well. You should not argue with them because that will only make them happy6. Look at the advice that he gave the Superior at Sedan:
When the king sent you to Sedan, it was on the condition that you never argue with the heretics, neither from the pulpit nor in private. He knew that such talk leads nowhere and is mere noise which bears no fruit. By leading a good life and practicing virtue you will lead the devious to the straight road and at the same time you will reaffirm Catholics in their faith. Indeed, by giving good example in the exercise of our mission, the Company will be able to accomplish its work in Sedan… And this is where you all have to work, so if you wish to talk about some controversial point, do not do it unless you bring into your conversation the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this way you will be able to sustain and prove the truths which the heretics are fighting, and in addition you will be able to refute their arguments, without mentioning or talking about them7.
- Do I have an interest in the ecumenical movement? How could I prove that interest?
- In my ministry, do I collaborate with those who profess a faith different than mine?
God our Father, you bring many nations together in unity to praise your Name. Make us able and willing to do what you ask. May the people you call to your Kingdom be one in faith and love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen8.