Kevin McDonald

Kevin McDonald, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark, offers some reflections on the distinction between ecumenical and inter-religious relations.

When I worked in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity (1985-93) certain distinctions were seen as axiomatic in a way that is not quite the case today. For example a very clear distinction was made between ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious dialogue. Ecumenical dialogue had as its aim the establishment or restoration of full communion of faith and sacramental life between Christians of different Communions. This quite specific goal was seen as a matter of urgency since Christian disunity is an anomaly which is clearly contrary to the will of Christ for his Church. Inter-religious dialogue, on the other hand, was not seen as having any such specific objective and was talked about in terms of mutual understanding, peace in the world and so on. It was a matter of mild irritation at the Pontifical Council that the American Bishops’ Conference had an office for ‘ecumenical and inter-religious relations’ when we would have preferred them to be kept separate.

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