The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs is a commission of bishops assisted by experts for ecumenical affairs established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This committee is the territorial commission for ecumenical matters in the United States in accord with the directives set forth in the Directory for the Application of the Decisions of the Second Ecumenical Council for the Vatican Concerning Ecumenical Matters (Nn. 7, 8 & 6) promulgated by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI on May 14, 1967, Pentecost Sunday.
The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs has a mandate from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to give guidance in ecumenical and interreligious affairs and determine concrete ways of acting in accordance with the Decree on Ecumenism and on Non-Christian Religious of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican and with other ordinances and legitimate customs, taking account of the time, place and persons they are concerned with but also of the good of the universal Church. This Committee is assisted by a permanent secretariat.
The function of this Committee in its work of fostering Christian Unity include the following:
- putting into practice the rules and instructions issued by the Apostolic See in these matters;
- giving advice and assistance to Bishops who are setting up an ecumenical commission in their own dioceses;
- giving spiritual and material help where possible to both existing ecumenical institutions and to ecumenical enterprises to be promoted either in the field of instruction and research or in that of pastoral care and the promotion of Christian life according to the principles set out in the Decree on Ecumenism (Nn. 9 to 11);
- establishing dialogue and consultation with the leaders and with the ecumenical councils of the other Churches and Communities which exist on a national or territorial (as distinct from diocesan) scale;
- appointing those experts who, by a public mandate of the Church are designated for the conversations and consultations with experts of the Communities referred to under (d) above;
- furthering in an appropriate manner special ecumenical relations with the Eastern Churches;
- maintaining relations between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Holy See with regard to ecumenical matters;
- fostering spiritual ecumenism according to the principles laid down in the Decree on Ecumenism (see especially n. 8) about public and private prayer for the unity of Christians;
- promoting friendliness, cooperation and charity between Catholics and their brothers and sisters who are not in full communion;
- initiating and guiding full dialogue with them, bearing in mind the adaptation to be made to the types of participants according to nn. 9 and 11 of the Decree on Ecumenism;
- promoting in common with our brothers and sisters not in full communion joint witness to the Christian faith as well as cooperation in such areas as, e.g., education, morality, social and cultural matters, learning and the arts: (cf. Decree on Ecumenism n. 12, also the Decree Ad Gentes n. 15);
- offering help and encouragement for the instruction and education to be given to clergy and laity and for conducting one’s life in an ecumenical spirit, with special emphasis being given to preparing seminary students, to preaching, catechetics and other kinds of teaching dealt with in the Decree on Ecumenism no. 10;
- maintaining relations with the diocesan ecumenical commissions, receiving their advice and suggestions, and in addition, when circumstances suggest, sending useful information to the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome, which can help the latter in carrying on its own work;
- maintaining liaison with the other territorial commissions of the hemisphere (Canadian Catholic Conference and CELAM).
In addition to its work for Christian Unity, the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs shall actively seek ways to foster through dialogue and other forms of cooperation the relations of the Catholic Church in the United States with the Jewish community in this country, with the people of the non-Christian religions and with the secularist world. In carrying out these activities the Committee will maintain liaison with the Secretary for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, with the Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions and the Secretariat for Non-believers, as well as other competent bodies established by the Holy See.