Ministry -- VI. Towards the Mutual Recognition of the Ordained Ministries
M51. In order to advance towards the mutual recognition of ministries, deliberate
efforts are required. All churches need to examine the forms of ordained ministry
and the degree to which the churches are faithful to its original intentions.
Churches must be prepared to renew their understanding and their practice of
the ordained ministry.
M52. Among the issues that need to be worked on as churches move towards mutual
recognition of ministries, that of apostolic succession is of particular importance.
Churches in ecumenical conversations can recognize their respective ordained
ministries if they are mutually assured of their intention to transmit the ministry
of Word and sacrament in continuity with apostolic times. The act of transmission
should be performed in accordance with the apostolic tradition, which includes
the invocation of the Spirit and the laying on of hands.
M53. In order to achieve mutual recognition, different steps are required of
different churches. For example:
- Churches which have preserved the episcopal succession are asked to
recognize both the apostolic content of the ordained ministry which exists
in churches which have not maintained such succession and also the existence
in these churches of a ministry of episkopé in various forms.
- Churches without the episcopal succession, and living in faithful continuity
with the apostolic faith and mission, have a ministry of Word and sacrament,
as is evident from the belief, practice, and life of those churches, These
churches are asked to realize that the continuity with the Church of the
apostles finds profound expression in the successive laying on of hands
by bishops and that, though they may not lack the continuity of the apostolic
tradition, this sign will strengthen and deepen that continuity. They may
need to recover the sign of the episcopal succession.
M54. Some churches ordain both men and women, others ordain only men. Differences
on this issue raise obstacles to the mutual recognition of ministries. But those
obstacles must not be regarded as substantive hindrance for further efforts
towards mutual recognition. Openness to each other holds the possibility that
the Spirit may well speak to one church through the insights of another. Ecumenical
consideration, therefore, should encourage, not restrain, the facing of this
M55. The mutual recognition of churches and their ministries implies decision
by the appropriate authorities and a liturgical act from which point unity would
be publicly manifest. Several forms of such public act have been proposed: mutual
laying on of hands, eucharistic concelebration, solemn worship without a particular
rite of recognition, the reading of a text of union during the course of a celebration.
No one liturgical form would be absolutely required, but in any case it would
be necessary to proclaim the accomplishment of mutual recognition publicly.
The common celebration of the eucharist would certainly be the place for such