The Ecumenical path towards Inter Religious Dialogue

The Ecumenical path towards Inter Religious Dialogue

Fri, 21 Oct 22 Ecclesial Formation Knowing the church

Today we have a journey along the ecumenical path towards inter religious dialogue. This will allow us to enter the heart of our Charism and to highlight how our Mother Foundress Maria Oliva Bonaldo of the Mystical Body made her own the anxiety of Jesus: before His Passion He pleaded with the Father for the visible unity of His Church so that the whole world could believe in His Love

What does Ecumenism mean and how to achieve ecumenism?

The terms ecumenism / ecumenical derive from oikoumene.This, in turn, derives from the Greek verb oikeo which means to dwell.In Greek, He oikoumeneghe indicates the inhabited world in the patristic era. Oikoumene is synonymous with the whole world at the time of the Roman Empire. From the fourth century AD,it indicates the Christian world as well. At that time, this essentially coincides with the Empire. The adjective ecumenical applies to everything that has universal value.

The expressions 'ecumenical spirit' and 'ecumenical friendship' have appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. These expressions indicate the peaceful and friendly collaboration of Christians of different confession as well as the concept of belonging to one world; the universal Church of Jesus Christ.

Nathan Söderblom (Lutheran bishop of Uppsala, Sweden) is one of the first theologians to use the term ecumenical to indicate the work of reconciliation and union between the Churches. In 1917,he invited the Christian Churches to meet in an ecumenical conference.In 1919, he called the Churches to form an Ecumenical Council of Churches that would speak in the name of all Christianity on the religious, moral and social questions of humanity with the objective to work for the restoration of peace and the promotion of social justice. World War I had just ended In Europe.

Gradually, the understanding of ecumenism became an action aimed at the reunification of Christianity.This definition of the concept of ecumenism was formulated as follows: ‘The word ecumenical indicates the type and manner in which the unity of the Churches is expressed in history ... The thought and action of the Church ...they are ecumenical in that they try to realize the Una Sancta, that is the community of Christians, who profess the one Lord’.

In the Catholic Church, ecumenism is used in a rather restricted sense and refers exclusively to effort aimed at restoring the unity of the churches. ‘Ecumenical movement means the activities and initiatives aimed at promoting Christian unity, according to the various needs of the Church and the opportunities of the times...’(UR 4).

Ecumenism arises from the awareness that divisions among Christians contradict Christ's will for his Church: Christ wanted his Church to be one as well as the instrument of communion and atonement, He came to give us.Therefore, in a positive way, we can say that ecumenism is born from the desire to make visible the true nature of the Church (cf. UR 1).This is a communion of life with God, One and Triune , with all sharing the same faith.

What does Ecumenism imply for us Daughters of the Church?

Our Mother Maria Olivia Bonaldo reached this awareness in the Corpus Domini Procession of May 22, 1913 when she said: ‘All of sudden,I understood the Church, I understood Jesus, I understood the mystery of Christianity’.This led her to think of us as a communion (spiritual union), not just a simple group of people. This communion willing to accept suffering as a gift for the salvation of souls. It is a  small group of hearts willing to  live, to make visible what Jesus asks to the Father in his priestly prayer (Jn. 17) in his last will before going up to Calvary.Mother Bonaldo never stopped to repeat that our family has drawn inspiration and life from the prayer of Jesus in Jn.17.What does Jesus ask the Father?The union, the gift of unity among the disciples and for those who, at all times, will believe in them.This means that Jesus asks the Father for the gift of union among us.

Mother Bonaldo had already thought of us and generated us through the ardent desire within her heart for a Church that is really ONE, as mother of every human creature and as a way for each to reach eternal salvation.This is our first commitment.

Already in the 33Foglietti, that is 4 years before the Congregation came to light, she thought about it: ‘... let them also study with particular care the History of the Church in relation to the reunion of separated Christianity. They will get to know their House better, the House of God, the Kingdom of Christ, the Ship that cannot go submerged. They ought to have the opportunity to participate when Providence requests it, in that work of such high relevance and so corresponding to the particular needs and attitudes of the present times. This is the work of the union of separate groups into the One True Church, boulders detached from the gold-bearing rock, and which we must know and love in order to hasten the union.’.

If we think carefully, here we find the synthesis of everything that Vatican Council II will later state in the explanation and declination of that subsist it. This revolutionized the Church and made more evident and palpable koinonia, the communal and family dimension with respect to the hierarchical one.(see LG 8, but also from 13 to 16 and then the whole Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio).

In addition to being a gift and a commitment, ecumenism is above all love, love for the others.It is love for the Gospel;it is love for the Church, born from the proclamation of the Gospel;it is love for humanity called to participate in salvation;it is love towards every brother / sister who believes in Christ;it is love for every man / woman called to welcome the good news of the Gospel of salvation.

‘Vatican II explicitly asked Catholics to embrace all Christians lovingly with a charity that yearns to overcome, in truth, what divides them. They ought to undertake , to do so actively;they must work hoping and praying for the promotion of Christian unity;their faith in the mystery of the Church should stimulate and illuminate them in such a way that their ecumenical action can be inspired and guided by a true understanding of the Church...‘ (NDE 9; cf. UUS 21).