World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Fourth report of the Joint Working Group

Both the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches are determined to continue their collaboration and to seek together ways to serve the ecumenical cause. Therefore, after ten years of com­mon experience, it is appropriate to ask anew the question how they can, together, best further the ecu­menical movement, How should the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches be related to one another? What areas require primary atten­tion? What kind of common structure should be adopted? The present report attempts to answer these questions and submits to the parent bodies a number of recommendations as to the next steps to be taken.

01 January 1975

In the course of the last three decades, the rela­tions among the churches have changed profoundly. Though continuing to live in a state of division, they have discovered anew, through the ecumenical move­ment, the bond which holds them together despite their differences. They have entered into dialogue. They have begun to witness and to work together. They have begun to experience a common spiritual joy. Attitudes of mutual exclusion have been replaced by a common search for that true unity, the disciples are called to show forth in the world.

In this development, the World Council of Chur­ches has played a significant role. It has been an instrument helping the churches to engage in encoun­ter and exchange and calling them to bear witness together to Jesus Christ and to the salvation he has brought to the world.

The Second Vatican Council gave a decisive fur­ther impulse to the ecumenical movement. In the documents of the Council, in particular in the consti­tution Lumen Gentium and the Decree on Ecumenism, the Roman Catholic Church has given new expression to its understanding of the unity of the Church and committed itself to participation in the ecumenical mo­vement. This decision opened the doors for mutual discovery and made possible, in some measure, com­mon witness and collaboration,

Inevitably, the question arose as to how the Ro­man Catholic Church would relate to the World Coun­cil of Churches. In 1965, after many preliminary contacts and conversations, it was decided to set up the body known as the Joint Working Group, a com­mission with the mandate to explore the possibilities of dialogue and collaboration, More than ten years have passed since the Decree on Ecumenism was pro­mulgated and the Joint Working Group brought into existence. Therefore, it has to be asked: where have we been led during these years? What has been achie­ved? What should and can be our goal in the years to come?

The Joint Working Group has served to strengthen the links between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. In a number of fields, joint study and collaboration have been initiated. On the other hand, the regular contacts and the common reflection have also made the two partners more fully aware of the implications of their collaboration. They have come to see more clearly the obstacles which need to be overcome if fellowship and collaboration among the churches arc to grow.

Both the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches are determined to continue their collaboration and to seek together ways to serve the ecumenical cause. Therefore, after ten years of com­mon experience, it is appropriate to ask anew the question how they can, together, best further the ecu­menical movement, How should the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches be related to one another? What areas require primary atten­tion? What kind of common structure should be adopted?

The present report attempts to answer these questions and submits to the parent bodies a number of recommendations as to the next steps to be taken.

Download : 04 Fourth Report Joint Working Group.pdf