?An exchange of gifts.? Unitatis Redintegratio

Mark Langham

This article explores Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council?s decree on ecumenism, which signalled a shift in attitude towards ecumenical dialogue. Mark Langham was a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and is now Chaplain at Fisher House, University of Cambridge.

Perhaps the most difficult time to judge a revolution is half a century after that revolution has taken place. What was radical can become commonplace, and momentous events fade in the memory. This is very much the case with the ecumenical revolution, as generations have grown up where friendly relations between Christians are taken for granted. Our level of interaction has perhaps dulled us to the greatness of the achievement. In a way, that is good; ecumenism should be ordinary, unremarkable. But it is also important to recall that the friendships that we now enjoy were hard won and not inevitable, and are but a stage on a greater journey.

Hence, to evaluate Unitatis Redintegratio correctly, it is important to recall how things stood before the Council decree on Ecumenism. Previously, official documents of the Roman Catholic Church had used an implacable language of hostility ? and even flippancy.

Login for more...