Chapter III: Quanta est nobis via?
77. We can now ask how much further we must travel until that blessed day when
full unity in faith will be attained and we can celebrate together in peace
the Holy Eucharist of the Lord. The greater mutual understanding and the doctrinal
convergences already achieved between us, which have resulted in an affective
and effective growth of communion, cannot suffice for the conscience of Christians
who profess that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The ultimate
goal of the ecumenical movement is to re-establish full visible unity among
all the baptized.
In view of this goal, all the results so far attained are but one stage of
the journey, however promising and positive.
78. In the ecumenical movement, it is not only the Catholic Church and the
Orthodox Churches which hold to this demanding concept of the unity willed by
God. The orientation towards such unity is also expressed by others.
Ecumenism implies that the Christian communities should help one another so
that there may be truly present in them the full content and all the requirements
of "the heritage handed down by the Apostles". Without this, full
communion will never be possible. This mutual help in the search for truth is
a sublime form of evangelical charity.
The documents of the many International Mixed Commissions of dialogue have
expressed this commitment to seeking unity. On the basis of a certain fundamental
doctrinal unity, these texts discuss Baptism, Eucharist, ministry and authority.
From this basic but partial unity it is now nec- essary to advance towards
the visible unity which is required and sufficient and which is manifested in
a real and concrete way, so that the Churches may truly become a sign of that
full communion in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which will be
expressed in the common celebration of the Eucharist.
This journey towards the necessary and sufficient visible unity, in the communion
of the one Church willed by Christ, continues to require patient and courageous
efforts. In this process, one must not impose any burden beyond that which is
strictly necessary (cf. Acts 15:28).
79. It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study before
a true consensus of faith can be achieved: 1) the relationship between Sacred
Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of faith, and Sacred Tradition,
as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God; 2) the Eucharist,
as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the
Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence of Christ and the sanctifying
outpouring of the Holy Spirit; 3) Ordination, as a Sacrament, to the threefold
ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate; 4) the Magisterium of
the Church, entrusted to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, understood
as a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching
and safeguarding the faith; 5) the Virgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of
the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and for
In this courageous journey towards unity, the transparency and the prudence
of faith require us to avoid both false irenicism and indifference to the Church's
ordinances. Conversely, that same transparency and prudence urge us to reject
a halfhearted commitment to unity and, even more, a prejudicial opposition or
a defeatism which tends to see everything in negative terms.
To uphold a vision of unity which takes account of all the demands of revealed
truth does not mean to put a brake on the ecumenical movement. On the contrary,
it means preventing it from settling for apparent solutions which would lead
to no firm and solid results. The obligation to respect the truth is absolute.
Is this not the law of the Gospel?