WASHINGTON (May 28, 2002) – The National Workshop on Christian Unity and the National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers met in Cleveland, Ohio May 20-23.
Highlights of the meeting were an address by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; a presentation on the Church in the Middle East by the Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and a Patriarchal Liturgy; an opening sermon by Rev. Dr. John Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ; a report on the state of US Catholic ecumenism by Bishop Tod Brown, Chair of the Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; and the presence of Bishop Pablo Schmitz, OFMCap., ecumenical representative of the Council of Latin American Bishops Conferences (CELAM).
Cardinal Kasper's keynote touched on the current challenges of the ecumenical movement, the development of communion (koinonia) ecclesiology in the ecumenical movement and in Catholic self understanding, and the challenges for ecumenical ministry in the present situation.
Developments in Orthodoxy since 1989 have made that relationship particularly challenging. Concerns about identity, even Catholic identity as indicated in a text like Dominus Iesus, require attention. The global diversity of the churches and different relationships in different places make the ecumenical progress more challenging.
On the other hand, since the Council and especially since the extraordinary Synod of 1985, the theology of communion has been articulated as the focus of Catholic understanding of itself as a Church and of its relationship with other churches. Many of the ecumenical documents have focused on communion ecclesiology as the common ground on which unity can be built.
Cardinal Kasper ended his presentation emphasizing all of the things that can be done in this time of transition in the ecumenical movement, particularly the importance of working to make the results of the dialogue an integral part of Catholic education and catechesis at every level.
The Cardinal also addressed the Catholic members of the Workshop at their annual luncheon. In his talk on authority he emphasized both the importance of proposals from the dialogues, like the Anglican Roman Catholic Gift of Authority, and also the significance of internal renewal, as with the development of collegiality and synodality within the Catholic Church.
The opening worship service, in St. John the Evangelist Catholic Cathedral, hosted by Catholic Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland, featured preaching by Rev. Dr. John Thomas. He focused on the churches' united response to the year's challenges following September 11. He also reflected on the life and contribution of Father John Hotchkin, the long time director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who died last June 24.
Catholic ecumenists also had the opportunity to attend seminars on Formation of Catholic Educators for the Church's Mission on Unity and The Shoah and Catholic - Jewish Relations. The Catholic ecumenical officers sponsored a presentation by His Beatitude Gregory II Laham, Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East on The Situation of the Christians in the Middle East attended by a large number of the Workshop participants. The annual Catholic liturgy for the ecumenical officers was held at St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church, with Bishops Tod Brown, Pablos Schmitz, and other Eastern Catholic Bishops concelebrating.
The plenary of the Workshop attended the celebration of a Churches Uniting in Christ liturgy at Old Stone Presbyterian Church. The reflections on the liturgy were led by Msgr. Alan Detscher, Diocese of Bridgport, CT and Rev. Dr. Bertrice Wood, executive secretary, Churches Uniting in Christ. The discussion engaged the more than 400 participants in an exploration what is meant by full communion and what are the elements necessary for the different churches to come into this fullness of unity in faith, sacramental life and mission.
The workshop finished with a luncheon at which Dr. Ann Riggs, Director of Faith and Order, National Council of Churches, presented an address on the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence.