'There is no ecumenism in the abstract,' says Bishop Brian Farrell at event for Christian unity

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'There is no ecumenism in the abstract,' says Bishop Brian Farrell at event for Christian unity

By Elena Dini

ROME — The Lay Centre co-sponsored an afternoon of reflection and prayer with the Centro Pro Unione Jan. 23, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

“The ecumenical way is not optional,” said Father James Puglisi, director of the Centro Pro Unione introducing the main speaker. Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, spoke on the theme, “The Ecumenism of Pope Francis.”

“Pope Francis does ecumenism on the spot, whenever he has an opportunity. It is not as if he wrote a book,” said Bishop Farrell, underlining how Pope Francis comes to ecumenism through experience. “One of the first things he said to Cardinal (Kurt) Koch and myself after his election was: ‘I haven’t read all the documents, but if we have to do something, let’s do it.’”

The bishop told those gathered at the Centro Pro Unione about the personal relationships and friendships Pope Francis nurtures with Christians of other churches.

“There is no ecumenism in the abstract, it has to be between people,” said Bishop Farrell.

Another fundamental element in Pope Francis’ approach to ecumenism is the move from the traditional way of doing ecumenism, which searches for notional agreements, to a “walking together,” he said.

“We are only able to overcome difficult questions if we are on the path already walking together,” said the bishop.

The Catholic Church represents a part of the whole body of the baptized, and Pope Francis made this thought explicit at the beginning of his pontificate in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” which states: “It is not just about being better informed about others, but rather about reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us” (246).

Bishop Farrell ended his reflection with a question: What do we do about our differences? One of the conclusions he drew was that Pope Francis does not look for “sameness, uniformity, and dominance, but reconciled diversity.”

“Pope Francis is not a builder who is following the plan of the architect. He is going on a journey and, as he often reminds us, when you set out on a journey you always discover new things you did not know. God always surprises us,” he said.

After this moment of reflection, Rev. Robert Warren, vicar of Rome’s All Saints Anglican Church, presided the Ecumenical Celebration of the Word, which started with the invocation of the Holy Spirit and prayers for reconciliation. The Lay Centre resident community formed part of the choir.

Rev. Dr. Daniel Pratt Morris-Chapman, pastor of the Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church, led participants in the reading of Acts 28:1-10, the passage that inspired the theme chosen for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness” (Acts 28:2).

“We need not be suspicious of one another, we need not look at each other with fear,” said Rev. Morris Chapman. “We are all different anyway, but in Christ we can find unity, and through kindness to each other, we can find the way.”

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