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Ecumenism is of ‘primary importance’ to the Pope, says Cardinal Schönborn

By on Friday, 31 August 2012

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna (Reuters/Leonhard Foeger)

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna (Reuters/Leonhard Foeger)

Benedict XVI’s decision to meet his former students for a discussion about ecumenical relations, especially Catholic relations with Anglicans and Lutherans, demonstrates the importance he gives to the search for Christian unity, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has said.

The Austrian cardinal, one of the former doctoral students of the former Professor Joseph Ratzinger, spoke to Vatican Radio on the eve of the annual three-day meeting of the Ratzinger Schülerkreis – literally, the Ratzinger student circle.

“The fact that the Holy Father chose this theme for this year’s meeting is a sign that for him the ecumenical question is of primary importance”, especially as the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which formally set out the Church’s ecumenical agenda, the cardinal said.

The Pope’s former doctoral students will base their discussions on retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s book, Harvesting the Fruits, a comparative collection of the agreements reached in theological dialogues with the Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Reformed communities since Vatican II.

Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, who succeeded Cardinal Kasper as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will participate in the meeting of the Schülerkreis in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence about 15 miles south-east of Rome.

The Pope and his students have invited guest speakers to the closed-door meeting: retired Lutheran Bishop Ulrich Wilckens, a New Testament scholar, Theodor Dieter, director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, and Swiss Bishop Charles Morerod of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.

The choice of focusing on relations with Anglicans and with Lutherans, Cardinal Schönborn said, reflects that the two communities came out of the Reformation and the churches are preparing commemorations of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary in 2017.

As Pope Benedict has taught, the theological discussions with other Christians must be “a dialogue in truth and charity”, the cardinal said, and one that “does not conceal the drama of division among Christians in Europe and, as a consequence, all over the world”.

Cardinal Schönborn also said he expected a discussion about what it really means to speak of the reform of the Church, which is “a theme of utmost importance to the Holy Father. We only have to think of all that he has said and taught about reform in continuity as a model of Catholic reform. Of course, as part of the jubilee of the Reformation there will be a lot of talk about what constitutes real reform, which we need even today.”

The cardinal said the students have been holding the annual meetings with their former professor since 1977 and real friendships had developed. But, he said, what really counts at the meetings is the scholarly validity and rigour of the arguments advanced, the reflection, discussions and search for truth.

  • JabbaPapa

    Secondly, you were interpreting Mortalium Animos by Pope Pius XI out of
    context, in other words you are reading between the lines. The
    Encyclical is foremost also a non-infallible letter ok? Thirdly,
    Mortalium Animos is talking about the false criteria of having a
    dialogue for the sake of achieving a concept of Christian unity that is
    still based on differing beliefs.

    You’re correct about his misinterpretation of it, but your own interpretation doesn’t seem to be completely accurate either.

    Mortalium Animos states no new infallible doctrines, but it does restate some already existing ones.

    Quite apart from which, it remains as an Authoritative teaching of the Church, and it must therefore be adhered to.

    The change since its publication is that the Magisterium has declared there to be cases where Catholics may if so authorised by their Bishop or other such Authority attend some approved ecumenical celebrations or participate in some approved ecumenical groups (such as the Taizé group, for example).

    Explicit approval is an absolutely binding requirement for a Catholic to attend such meetings.

    See ? This is the key — any NON-approved ecumenical gatherings must be shunned by Catholics for the precise reasons as they are very clearly given in Mortalium Animos.

  • Parasum

    ## The OP was paraphrasing, as is clear from the quotation he gives. I’m giving it because:

    1) your requested it;

    2) I don’t like being accused of hiding quotations that are not word-for-word what we were discussing. AFAICS, that is lying, which is inexcusable.

    The quotation certainly does not say word for word what I assumed it did before reading it – but the first poster’s words STM to be an accurate paraphrase of the last two sentences – which have been asterisked,**thus**. If the sentences with *single asterisks* are included, the fairness of the quotation in the form paraphrased seems even more appropriate.

    In ***triple asterisks*** is a phrase which is close even verbally to what you asked for. It would be wrong not follow the speaker’s reasoning as far as he takes it: if his words are to have their full weight, they must be allowed to permit the possibility that Vatican II was a waste of time – if Lateran V was, that Vatican II might also be can hardly be ruled out.  I’m relying  on a secondary source (which is not an entirely satisfactory way to work) – the URL for the page that quotes the passage is:;wap2

    “*Whether or not the Council becomes a positive force in the history of
    the Church depends only indirectly on the texts and organizations*; the
    crucial question is whether there are individuals – saints – who, by
    their personal willingness, which cannot be forced, are ready to effect
    something new and living.  The ultimate decision about the historical
    significance of Vatican Council II depends on whether or not there are
    individuals prepared to experience in themselves the drama of the
    separation of the wheat from the cockle and thus to give the whole a
    singleness of meaning that it cannot gain from words alone.  What we are
    thus far able to say is that the Council has, on the one hand, opened
    ways that lead from all kinds of byways and one-way streets to the real
    center of Christianity.  *On the other hand, however, we must be
    self-critical enough to acknowledge that the naive optimism of the
    Council and the self-esteem of many of its supporters justify, in a
    disturbing way, the gloomy diagnoses of early churchmen about the danger
    of councils.*  Not every valid council in the history of the Church has
    been a fruitful one; ***in the last analysis, many of them have been just a
    waste of time [footnote: In this connection, reference is repeatedly
    made, and with justification, to the Fifth Lateran Council, which met
    from 1512 to 1517 without doing anything effective to prevent the crisis
    that was developing***.  *Despite all the good to be found in the texts it
    produced, the last word about the historical value of Vatican Council
    II has yet to be spoken. If, in the end, it will be numbered among the
    highlights of Church history depends on those who will transform its
    words into the life of the Church*. (Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of
    Catholic Theology [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1987], pp. 377-78)”
    ## STM that the debated words are equivalent in meaning, though not identical in words, to the asterisked parts of the quotation.

    Hope that helps

  • Parasum

    That’s a Manningite position – he regarded appeals to the past as treachery to the “living voice” of the Church. It has the weakness that what in time X is regarded as Catholic teaching, is sometimes, in time X plus the future, regarded as unCatholic.

    This means, if one is logical, that the teaching of the “living voice” at any one time in the present is true only until it is found to be unsatisfactory or even untrue. This is not a good state of affairs. There is no point in following a Pope who leads in a direction that is later judged not to be a good one. One would need some very funny ideas about time for it to be wrong to criticise in the present a Pope who is judged in the future to be worthy of criticism. If it was right in 1959 for J23 to summon V2, then it must be right in all time following to have summoned V2. It must also be right during all time before it was summoned, for it to be summoned. Something cannot be right only at the time it happens – it must be right in unbroken time both before it is actually done, and after. So if it is right for Pope John 30 to condemn Vatican II in 2200 AD, it is right for it to be condemned now, by Benedict XVI. Following the “living voice” gets bogged down in all kinds of problems.

    It would help a lot if the Pope would make clear that it is not wrong or sinful or unCatholic to criticise in the Church what people think deserves criticism. This might take a lot of courage to make clear – but it would be the right thing to do. 

  • Parasum

    It’s too intellectualist, the OP’s position. The Holy Spirit of Christ  remains His, & is given to each & every member of the Church, & also to the whole Church as a Body, the Body of Christ. the Spirit is the Spirit of the whole Church, “militant here in in earth”, & also to the Church in Heaven. The Holy Spirit assists the whole Church at every moment – not just those who are pastors of the flock.  And the Holy Spirit renews the whole earth – He is not confined to the Church, any more than He is confined to Heaven.

    Leo XIII wrote a very fine Encyclical on the Holy Spirit in 1897:

    His encyclicals deserve to be much better known.

  • Alan

    If the anti-VII minority got its way, and returned to the Church of “error has no rights” etc., that Church would become a tiny insignificant sect.  Most of us would have to find another home.
    Just how far back in history do you want to go?  The Council of Nicaea?  If so, why do you not object to the addition of filioque to the Creed?  The fact is, we are always making “private judgements”, about joining (or remaining in) the Church, about accepting VII or otherwise, about whether to regard a particular teaching as “infallible”, etc.  You are perfectly entitled to your own private judgement on these matters, but don’t try to force them on the rest of us.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Alan says:

    “If the anti-VII minority got its way, and returned to the Church of “error has no rights” etc., that Church would become a tiny insignificant sect”.

    At least three of John Paul II’s Encyclicals repeat the truth that error has no rights. 

    hahaha, the ignorance of the liberals!

  • scary goat

     how rude

  • Charlemagne

    Do you believe your Catholicism more strongly than the Protestant believes his Protestantism? This equation in large scale will determine whether ecumenism will mean Protestantization or Catholization of the future church.

  • Meena

    That, of course, would be an ecumenical question.

  • Sweetjae

    I totally agree with you, I love the Sacred Tradition, Theotokos and all the Teachings of every Council of the Church, I don’t cherry pick. Anyways, although Orthodox churches have valid Sacraments but they don’t have the Fullness found only in the Catholic Church. If there is a modern day moral challenge they don’t have the ability to addressed it in a single voice like the Catholic Church do, good example, some Orthodox caved-in to artificial contraception recently.

    We are and specially the Roman Pontiff is offering brotherly unification with the Orthodox churches but we can only go so far. Early christian history to which they also recognized the Pope as the unifying figure and have jurisdictional authority. The response now should come from the Orthodox which is still cold with the See of Rome.

    Furthermore, even the great majority of Protestant churches are much farther away from us than Orthodox churches however, we can’t deny them of the Fullness of our Faith and ignore the obvious Doctrinal commonalities with them, like the Holy Truine God, Jesus Christ’s Incarnation and Redemption, the Holy Scripture etc.

  • Sweetjae

    Though you may have some good points about ecumenical abuse by the very few, I don’t like your demeaning attitude towards the late Pontiff….the Blessed Pope John Paul II, or do you also protest and question Church authority regarding the canonization of JPII, St. Escriva and Mother Teresa? Should we then believe in you?Where do you get your authority from anyways?

  • Charles Martel

    Enough of this rubbish! Ecumenism is a fancy word for apostasy.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    We don’t deny them anything. Let them return to the fullness of the Faith. 

  • JabbaPapa

    Notwithstanding what some Protestants and Liberals, especially, would have us believe — the primary and principal purpose of Ecumenism is the Evangelisation of non-Catholics.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Remember Kaspar’s words: the aim of ecumenism is no longer that of conversion.

    The theory of permanent Revolution is alive and well in the highest reaches of the Church: in this sense, Vatican II is already irrelevant to the Revolutionaries. They have moved further on. 

    And this is why the “New Evangelisation”, about which volumes of words are written, is understood by nobody. 

    You can’t have conversion with ecumenism. The two are a mutual contradiction. 

    You delude yourself Jabba. 

  • Guest234

    Catholic apologetic? What is that? We should choose another word rather than apologetic? Why should any Christian apologize dor Jesus Christ?

  • Sweetjae

    Geesh why do you people delude yourselves by saying we need them to convert them to catholicism, our job is to plant seeds, convertion is NOT our job it is the job of Holy Spirit. Our Master said if our effort doesn’t work we dust off our sandals and move on, beyond that it’s religious war. Do you people get His commandment?

  • Sweetjae

    So how do you do that? A mere human being able to convert a pagan or non catholic to the faith?

  • Sweetjae

    Thats pretty impressive and long but still irrelevant to the argument, though I agree specially the Australia part. One sentence to clear your mind, the musing and opinions of the pope might contain errors but we are not talking about them, right? We are talking about the acts and teachings promulgated by a legitimate and valid Council of the Church, right? huge difference brother. If you still insist otherwise and still refuse obedience then you are NOT a catholic… You are like any Protestant or liberal catholic out there. Period.

  • Sweetjae

    Then provide the authentic source, jabba already cited the entire statement, do you want to add some more?

  • Alan

    The point is, it is PEOPLE that have rights, even if they speak error.  I cannot imagine that JPII, who knew all about suppression of people’s rights, disagreed.   

  • Sweetjae

    Oh we truly understand , you guys still insist you got it right with what Tradition truly says not the 5 Pontiffs nor the Magisterium.

  • Sweetiae

    Agreed just forgot to include the first half of your reply but I’m not aware that we need an approval from our Bishops, I though that if one is competent, strong in their catholic faith and their intention is to plant seeds meaning evangelize, then one might go, anyways thanks for the clarification.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    I despair. If the above post is the level of understanding of what evangelisation entails, there is, humanly-speaking, no hope at all.

  • Sweetjae

    Agreed, error has no rights, VII didn’t contradict that teaching but rather the rights of a human being to exercise his freewill to choose is based upon in his inherent nature as man created by God, meaning his freedom is based upon the Dogma of Freewill and NOT based upon the error he might profess in search for the Truth. It is unreasonable you will find the right one on your first date, right?

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Sure, sure, we get you Alan.

  • Sweetjae

    You sir are confused probably between, persuasion and conversion. The former is our job as commanded by Christ, the latter is the job of the Holy Ghost NOT ours. If you want this job, so how in the world are you going to convert let’s say the Talibans?

  • Alan

    I would also refer you to Pacem in Terris, which clearly supports my view.

  • JabbaPapa

    I’ll take it you’ve not much Greek ?

    It means “active discourse”.

  • JabbaPapa

    You can’t have conversion with ecumenism. The two are a mutual contradiction.

    Tell that to the author of Anglicanorum Coetibus

  • JabbaPapa


    dust off our sandals and move on” is NOT a commandment — it’s advice !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    The problem with the Orthodox is that they have multiple Popes and about 17 distinct churches, and their theology of Authority is woefully inadequate, and has been for literally millennia.

  • JabbaPapa

    but I’m not aware that we need an approval from our Bishops

    Well, now you are.

  • JabbaPapa

    cripes I get sooooooo tired of people accusing others of being “not Catholic” for various frivolous “reasons”.

    You’re not Catholic if you deny in very grave circumstances any doctrine of the Faith that is central to the Catholicity.

    You are not Christian if you deliberately deny in grave circumstances the very foundations of the Christian Faith.

    NOT just because somebody disagrees with you !!!!!!!!!

  • Sweetjae

    What I’m saying is…Counsel, direct,guide, instruct, point out, comment, encourage etc. that has to be followed.

  • Sweetjae

    Jabba DID YOU NOTICE the words I wrote “IF”? If one still refuses obedience in TOTO or any Dogmatic Constitution of a valid Council, one is not a catholic…that is my point.

  • Sweetjae

    Can you please provide a direct Magisterial teaching on this.

  • JabbaPapa

    Unitatis Redintegratio

    Yet worship in common (communicatio in sacris) is not to be considered as a means to be used indiscriminately for the restoration of Christian unity. There are two main principles governing the practice of such common worship: first, the bearing witness to the unity of the Church, and second, the sharing in the means of grace. Witness to the unity of the Church very generally forbids common worship to Christians, but the grace to be had from it sometimes commends this practice. The course to be adopted, with due regard to all the circumstances of time, place, and persons, is to be decided by local episcopal authority, unless otherwise provided for by the Bishops’ Conference according to its statutes, or by the Holy See.

  • JabbaPapa

    There’s a great difference between disobedience to or disagreement with this or that doctrine and “not being Catholic”.

    Those who *must* agree with every doctrine of the Church are 1) theologians 2) Bishops 3) Excommunicated persons seeking a lifting of their excommunications

    (there are probably a few extra categories)

    Typically, for an ordinary lay Catholic to lose his or her Catholicity from disagreement with doctrine would require disagreeing not just with this or that among the doctrines — but with one or more of the central dogmata of the Faith.

  • Sweetjae

    Sorry i dont agree with your opinion. You reject one you reject all, period!

  • Sweetjae

    My point was evangelization NOT common worship with differing protestant sects.

  • Fr.maurice Horsey

    We are all fallible whatever church we belong to but we are all one in Christ Jesus

  • Fr Maurice Horsey

    We are all fallible but we rae one in Chrict Jesus  Fr. maurice

  • anglocatholic

    As an Anglican and a great admirer of Pope Benedict I am amazed at the degree of contempt supposedly traditionalist Catholics express fort the Holy See. I am afraid this column attracts a nest of bigots and pure eccentrics.

  • Sweetjae

    Simply not true, a valid Ecumenical Council is one of the acts of the Church whose infallibility is quaranteed as de fide with the fullest authority.