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128 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed

Second Vatican Council and led the Church to participate in what is

called the ecumenical movement. The word


means “world-

wide” and, in a Catholic understanding, describes efforts “for the rec-

onciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of

Christ” (UR, no. 24; CCC, no. 822). This is to be a visible communion.

“Full unity will come about when all share in the means of salvation

entrusted by Christ to his Church” (Pope John Paul II,

On Commitment

to Ecumenism


Ut Unum Sint

; UUS], no. 86). “Communion of the par-

ticular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with

the Bishop of Rome, is—in God’s plan—an essential requisite of full and

visible communion” (UUS, no. 97). Ecumenism includes efforts to pray

together, joint study of the Scripture and of one another’s traditions,

common action for social justice, and dialogue in which the leaders and

theologians of the different churches and communities discuss in depth

their doctrinal and theological positions for greater mutual understand-

ing, and “to work for unity in truth” (UUS, nos. 18, 29). In dialogue the

obligation to respect the truth is absolute. “The unity willed by God

can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed

faith in its entirety” (UUS, no. 18). On the worldwide level, these dia-

logues are sponsored on the Catholic side by the Pontifical Council for

the Promotion of Christian Unity, a Vatican office directly accountable

to the Pope.

The Catholic Church retains the structures of episcopal leadership

and sacramental life that are the gift of Christ to his Church (cf. CCC,

nos. 765, 766) and that date back to apostolic times. At the same time,

the Catholic Church recognizes that the Holy Spirit uses other churches

and ecclesial communities “as means of salvation, whose power derives

from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the

Catholic Church” (CCC, no. 819; LG, no. 8). Depending on what and

how much of the elements of sanctification and truth (UR, no. 3) these

communities have retained, they have a certain though imperfect com-

munion with the Catholic Church. There are also real differences. In

some cases “there are very weighty differences not only of a historical,

sociological, psychological and cultural character, but especially in the

interpretation of revealed truth” (UR, no. 19). (The word