The Commission on Faith and Order and the Second Vatican Council: perspectives from the Commission Meetings, 1959-1968.
The relationship between the Commission on Faith and Order and the Second Vatican Council is a distinct, yet partial, chapter of a much broader and more complex accounting of ecclesial relationships within the ecumenical movement, between the Roman Catholic Church and the wider ecumenical movement, and between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches (WCC). The Commission on Faith and Order has been shaped by these wider contexts, and in turn has shaped the Roman Catholic engagement with the churches and the WCC.
Accounts of the relationship between the WCC and Vatican II are well documented in histories, such as the magisterial five volumes of the History of Vatican II edited by Giuseppe Alberigo, and other accounts of the council, such as the 2010 text Christian Unity: Duty and Hope, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. These histories seldom, if ever, mention the Commission on Faith and Order, and if it is mentioned, it is usually in the context of its Fourth World Conference in 1963, with reference to its treatment of "Scripture, Tradition and Traditions" and the Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum. There are significant non-Roman Catholic accounts of the council, such as Lukas Vischer's chapter in Alberigo's series, "The Council as an Event in the Ecumenical Movement," (2) as well as his lengthier chapter on "The Ecumenical Movement and the Roman Catholic Church" in the WCC's own history of the ecumenical movement. (3) Oddly for one who is emblematic of Faith and Order in the 20th century, Vischer rarely refers to Faith and Order in these accounts. A significant first-hand account of the relationship between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church is found in W. A. Visser 't Hooft's Memoirs, which likewise seldom refer to the role played by Faith and Order.
The Commission on Faith and Order was not officially represented at Vatican II. One of the celebrated features of the council was the presence of 186 ecumenical observers appointed by their respective Christian World Communions and the ecumenical guests invited by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. The contribution of the ecumenical observers and guests was recognized throughout the council, as well as by historians of the council. A remarkable feature of a significant number of these observers is that they were, like Lukas Vischer, also deeply engaged in the work of Faith and Order.
Some of the more distinguished ecumenical observers have also left first-hand accounts of their experience of and reflection on Vatican II: for example, Douglas Horton's four-volume Vatican Diary, Albert Outler's Methodist Observer at Vatican II, and George Caird's Our Dialogue with Rome. Anglican observer Bernard Pawley published three different texts on the council, including an extremely valuable book, The Second Vatican Council: Studies by Eight Anglican Observers. There are scores of other such works from the time of the council, some written by observers who were also members of Faith and Order. Yet they contain few references to Faith and Order. Pawley's The Second Vatican Council describes the ecumenical engagement within the council as though the WCC was absent, with the exception of one reference to a statement of the WCC on religions freedom in connection with the Declaration on Religious Liberty. This is an even stranger omission since one of the Anglican observers, Canadian Eugene Fairweather, a contributor to Pawley's volume, was a member of the Commission on Faith and Order throughout the time of the council. Much later, Fairweather was one of my professors and ecumenical mentors; anecdotally, I remember that one of the things that singled him out as a leading Anglican ecumenist was his nomination to Faith and Order in the 1950s.
These observers were the official representatives of their respective churches or ecumenical institutions, and their horizon in the context of Vatican II was necessarily bilateral rather than multilateral. Yet the absence of mention or reflection on Faith and Order might suggest that the commission played a limited role--or no role--with the Roman Catholic Church during the time of the council.
The evidence from the Commission on Faith and Order itself through years before and after Vatican II describes a different picture. In this paper, the primary sources for the history between Faith and Order and Vatican II are the published minutes of Faith and Order meetings during those years: the minutes and reports from the commission itself, the working committee, and the Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order of 1963. These minutes take the reader from the hesitant interest in the council reflected in the 1959 minutes to the nomination of Roman Catholic members to the commission--including the future Pope Benedict XVI--reflected in the 1968 minutes.
The very nature of the primary sources places the emphasis of this account on the Commission on Faith and Order as a corporate body, rather than on the specific contributions of members of the commission in isolation. It must be admitted that the contributions of individual members of Faith and Order to Vatican II were extraordinary in scope and effect. I think first of Lukas Vischer: his initiation of so many of the activities within the commission to include Roman Catholics and his leadership among the ecumenical observers to the council. His reflections on the Second Vatican Council back to the WCC in reports and presentations represent a significant literary legacy.
Faith and Order and the Roman Catholic Church
The timeframe in this account of Faith and Order's engagement with Vatican II (1962-1965) begins before and ends after the council, from 1959 to 1968. The widest timeframe of Faith and Order's relationship with the Roman Catholic Church for the purposes of this narrative is from 1928 to 2012; that is, from the 1928 encyclical of Pius XI, Mortalium animos, to the completion of the second Faith and Order convergence text, The Church: Towards a Common Vision, in 2012.
In an odd way, Mortalium animos ("Mortal souls") signals how important Faith and Order had become to the Roman Catholic Church. In a clear reaction to the World Conference on Faith and Order in 1927, the ecumenical movement as a whole was condemned. In the encyclical, Pope Pius XI condemned the ecumenical movement and prohibited Roman Catholic participation in it. Previously, Roman Catholics were forbidden to attend the Life and Work conference in 1925 as well as the First World Conference on Faith and Order in 1927. At the other end, in 2012, the Faith and Order Commission brought to completion its 20-year reflection on ecclesiology, which includes a reflection on "the question of a universal ministry of Christian unity." (4) Significantly, given the beginnings of the timeframe of this narrative in 1928, the convergence text on ecclesiology in 2012 not only contains a reflection on the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, but it was completed during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, himself one of the first Roman Catholic members of the commission elected in 1968. In short, precipitated by the first meeting of Faith and Order, in 1928 one pope formally condemned the ecumenical movement, and 84 years later, during the pontificate of another pope who was a former member of Faith and Order, the commission encouraged the churches to reflect on the papacy, ending its reflection with the question "If, according to the will of Christ, current divisions are overcome, how might a ministry that fosters and promotes the unity of the Church at the universal level be understood and exercised?" (5) The accounting of this extraordinary progress between 1928 and 2012 can only be explained with reference to the Commission on Faith and Order and its role in Vatican II.
Working Committee on Faith and Order, Spittal, Austria, 1959
At the 1959 meeting of the Working Committee, Faith and Order took note of what the minutes refer to as "much wild speculation on the Ecumenical Council proposed by the Pope." (6) While the commission was aware of the unity dimension intended by Pope John XXIII, it was sceptical:
It seemed likely that participation would be limited to Roman Catholics, and the question of unity dealt with primarily in that domestic context; considering the lack of contact with other parts of Christendom of many Roman circles it was perhaps better for the ultimate cause of church unity that no more was attempted at this time. The Roman Church was probably not prepared theologically or otherwise to make the right ecumenical decisions now. (7)
The expressed role of Faith and Order in the present context was "constant prayer for our Roman brethren" and a "constant willingness to enter into discussion when opportunities were presented." (8) More concretely, the commission agreed that the possibility be explored to have one or two Roman Catholic observers attend the meeting of the commission in 1960.
Faith and Order Commission, St Andrew's, Scotland, 1960
The minutes of the August 1960 meeting of the commission indicate the presence of the first three official (9) Roman Catholic observers: Fr Rene Beaupere, OP, a prominent member of the generation of French ecumenical pioneers; Fr Bernard, Leeming, SJ; and Fr Jerome Hamer, OP, who would be the first consultant to the commission from the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. (10)
In the course of the meeting, Fr Hamer was invited to speak on behalf of the Roman Catholic observers. He began by presenting a detailed summary of Roman Catholic ecumenical engagement throughout Europe--Germany, France, Holland, England--in terms of theological dialogue, common academic study, prayer, study and formation. He addressed the upcoming council, and more specifically the recent creation of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity in preparation for the council. The creation of the Secretariat, he stressed, signalled an official organization dealing with relations between the Catholic Church and other churches. Further information would have to wait until the WCC central committee meeting a short time afterwards. (11)
In a discussion on the implication of Faith and Order work, the commission readily acknowledged the importance of the Catholic Church and its work for Christian unity: first, because of its size; second, because of Roman Catholic interest in this particular work of the WCC; third, because of the contributions of Roman Catholic theologians to the work of Faith and Order. The openness to furthering the dialogue was expressed: "We believe that this theological discussion should be pursued in whatever ways may be mutually acceptable." (12)
In June 1960, just prior to the August meeting of Faith and Order, Cardinal Bea sent Mgr Willebrands to Geneva to meet with W. A. Visser 't Hooft to convey the news to him of the creation of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and to plan a meeting between Cardinal Bea and Visser 't Hooft. Willebrands was also authorized to attend the August meeting of the WCC central committee. When Bea and Visser 't Hooft did meet at the end of September 1960 in Milan, they discussed the possibility of Roman Catholic observers at the 1961 WCC assembly, and conversely, the presence of ecumenical observers at the upcoming Vatican Council. Significantly, the advice on this question was sought first from the WCC. The solution proposed between Visser 't Hooft and Willebrands was to send observers from the WCC and the "confessional federations or alliances." (13) The positive experience of the New Delhi assembly for the Roman Catholic Church further encouraged the invitation of ecumenical observers at the Vatican Council. As the official history of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said, "The mediation of Geneva would turn out to be fundamental in the task of having other churches send observers to the Vatican Council." (14)
Working Committee of Faith and Order, Paris, France, 1962
At the meeting of the Working Committee of Faith and Order during the summer of 1962, Lukas Vischer reported on the visits that he and his Faith and Order staff colleague Patrick Rodger had undertaken to a variety of Roman Catholic centres in Europe, and the importance of commission members taking their own initiatives with Roman Catholics. He announced that with the agreement of Mgr Willebrands and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, a consultation would be held at the Bossey Institute in 1963 among ten to 15 Faith and Order members and a similar number of Roman Catholic theologians to study the final reports of the various working theological commissions of Faith and Order. The other aim of the consultation was a preparation for the World Conference of Faith and Order, to be held in Montreal in 1963. Significantly, Vischer announced that "several Faith and Order Commission members would be present in Rome at the Second Vatican Council as officially appointed Observers of their respective denominations, and it was suggested that they should keep in contact throughout the duration of the Council." (15)
Under the heading of "Major Items in the Programme of Faith and Order," note was made of the involvement of Roman Catholic theologians, especially in the preparation for the World Conference of 1963. There is also the proposal that at the first meeting of the commission after Montreal in 1964, a long-term commission be established with Roman Catholic theologians to determine and initiate appropriate areas of joint study.
The working committee also encouraged members of Faith and Order globally to initiate visits to Roman Catholic seminaries and other centres, and to plan hospitality for return visits. Moreover, Faith and Order was prepared to cover travel and entertainment costs to the sum of $8,000.00 per year to be covered by "Supplemental Funds for WCC Programme" work. (16)
Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order, Montreal, 1963
The fourth World Conference on Faith and Order took place in Montreal, in the province of Quebec. Pope John XXIII reputedly referred to Quebec as the "jewel of the Catholic Church." A largely French-speaking and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic city, Montreal was a strategic location in terms of Faith and Order's expanding relationship with the Roman Catholic Church during the Second Vatican Council. One of the iconic photographs of that meeting was of the Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger, together with the general secretary of the WCC, W. A. Visser 't Hooft. The Cardinal Archbishop, Dr Visser 't Hooft, and a minister of the United Church of Canada were the three preachers at a worship service held at the French-speaking Universite de Montreal. Of that event Visser 't Hooft wrote in his Memoirs:
I spoke of the deep astonishment that such a meeting was now possible. At last we could not only speak with each other and give common witness, but also pray together openly and publically [sic] for the unity of the church. It seemed that we had arrived at a period of acceleration of ecumenical developments. We had become accustomed to say: The Roman Catholic Church and the ecumenical movement. Now we had to learn that the Roman Catholic Church was becoming an active participant in the ecumenical movement. (17)
One of the features of the conference that was celebrated and noted in the report of the Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order was the presence of Roman Catholic observers, leaders and journalists; among them were 20 observers to the conference In the opening address, Faith and Order commissioner Professor Roger Mehl stated:
In the presence of our brethren from the Roman Catholic Church who are here as observers, we should like to say that the churches belonging to the World Council do not regard the Vatican Council as an event that does not concern them, but as an event which affects them all because it really concerns the history of the true universal church. (18)
One of the most remembered debates of Montreal 1963 was on ecclesiology in the session on "The Church in the New Testament" between Professor Ernst Kasemann from the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland and Roman Catholic biblical scholar and ecumenist Professor Raymond Brown. In his account of Montreal 1963, David Paton observed:
It is a mark of the progress that had taken place in the nineteen months between New Delhi and Montreal, that in Montreal a main paper in General Session was given by a Roman Catholic scholar, and that in Section and Sub-section it was usually impossible to tell the status of the participants, since all participated with equal freedom. (19)
Roman Catholic scholars took initiative in engaging with Faith and Order before the world conference by sending a number of important responses to the preparatory papers on what would become the section reports on "The Church in the Purpose of God," (20) "Scripture, Tradition and Traditions," (21) "The Redemptive Work of Christ and the Ministry of the Church," (22) "Worship and the Oneness of Christ's Church" (23) and "'All in Each Place': The Process of Growing Together." (24) Roman Catholic participants worked on each of the five section reports. Ultimately, Montreal 1963 marks the first truly global gathering of Orthodox, Roman Catholics and churches shaped by the Reformation.
Faith and Order Commission and Working Commission, Montreal, Canada, 1963
Following the Fourth World Conference, the commission met on 24 July 1963. The commission noted the success of the consultation of 15 Faith and Order members and 15 Roman Catholic scholars in March 1963. The minutes also note the engagement of Lukas Vischer as an observer to the Second Vatican Council, as well as ten members of the commission. It also noted the engagement of Faith and Order staff with Roman Catholic institutions, and their participation in various colloquia. (25)
After the success of the World Conference, the commission explored various ways of sustaining theological dialogue with Roman Catholic theologians. One possibility noted was the creation of a special joint commission to co-ordinate various study projects between the commission and Roman Catholic scholars, (26) which would become in 1965 the joint theological commission under the auspices of the joint working group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church.
Faith and Order Commission and Working Committee, Aarhus, Denmark, 1964
The roll call in the minutes of the meetings of the commission and the working committee from 1964 reflects the presence of two Roman Catholic observers, Fr J. Long and Mgr J. Vodopivec. (27)
The commission took note of the presence of Roman Catholic observers at its meetings and participation of Faith and Order members at Vatican II. And again, future possibilities for ongoing cooperation were discussed, such as inviting individual Roman Catholic scholars to be regular members of study commissions and the creation of a special mixed theological commission, (28) raised earlier in 1963. While no decision could be made until after the completion on the Decree on Ecumenism, Faith and Order was preparing for a new relationship with the Roman Catholic Church after the council. The Roman Catholic observers are recorded to have appreciated the desire for ongoing collaboration. (29)
The minutes also reflect Faith and Order's preparedness to take up the request from the 1963 WCC central committee meeting for a Faith and Order consultation after the close of Vatican II to discuss the results of the council with the WCC member churches. (30)
Working Committee of Faith and Order, Bad Saarow, GDR, 1965
The minutes of the 1965 meeting of the Working Committee reflect increasing levels of collaboration between Faith and Order and the Roman Catholic Church in areas such as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and at the level of Faith and Order's theological study commissions. (31) For example, the studies on "The Nature of the Church," "The Eucharist: A Sacrament of Unity" and "The Fixing of the Date of Easter" all included Roman Catholic consultants.
The year 1965 marked the creation of the joint working committee between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church, which first met in May of that year. Of the eight members from the WCC on the Joint Working Group, four were from Faith and Order: chairman of the commission Oliver Tomkins, Vitaly Borovy, E. W. L. Schlink and Lukas Vischer.
A number of recommendations from the Joint Working Group that had consequences for Faith and Order were placed on the agenda of the working committee. (32) Of first importance was the recommendation of the creation of a special theological commission by both Faith and Order and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity that would consider the theological issues between the Roman Catholic Church and other churches. The two topics immediately proposed were on "Unity and Authority" and the "Work of the Holy Spirit in the Church." While the working committee discussed the idea of Roman Catholic membership in the commission, it was considered to be premature. Other kinds of Roman Catholic participation in the commission were considered, such as "observer" status or "consultants" to the commission. The working committee decided to forgo any comment or decision on the creation of a joint theological commission until its meeting in 1966, after further consultation with the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity on questions such as the size of the proposed commission.
The second issue was the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The joint working group had asked for a joint consultation on "Common prayer, communicatio in sacris, and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity." The working committee saw that the questions around common prayer and communicatio in sacris were different from some of the questions around the preparation of the text of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and proposed two distinct consultations. Issues around the former were held to be more urgent in the light of the Secretariat for Unity's need for advice from theologians from other churches in preparation for the directorium at the fourth session of the Vatican council. It was proposed that such a consultation take place in Rome during the fourth session, and that it involve as many Faith and Order commissioners as possible who were representing their churches at Vatican II.
Lastly, the staff report appended to the minutes of the 1965 meeting of the working committee notes from February to May of 1965 that an American Roman Catholic priest from the Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle, Fr William Sullivan, "gave valuable assistance to the Secretariat as a student from the Graduate School at Bossey" and would replace a member of the Secretariat on a leave of absence from September to December 1965. The note continues with some qualification: "It is emphasized on the side of the WCC that, although Father Sullivan will be salaried, this is not a 'staff appointment' of a permanent character, but rather an emergency measure." (33) Nevertheless, this appointment signals a new development within the secretariat of Faith and Order regarding its own relationship with the Roman Catholic Church.
Working Committee of Faith and Order, Zagorsk, USSR, 1966
The report on the various Faith and Order studies reflects the ongoing participation of Roman Catholic theologians: Fr Jerome Hamer, for instance, is mentioned as a consultant to the study on Unity; Roman Catholic (as well as Orthodox) participation was urged in the study on creation, new creation, and the unity of the church. (34)
The working group resumed the conversation on the joint theological commission between the Commission on Faith and Order and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. The WCC central committee had earlier approved of the proposal, and proposed that there be seven members from Faith and Order and five members from the Roman Catholic Church. The first topic on the agenda was to be "Catholicity and Apostolicity." (35)
Working Committee on Faith and Order, Bristol, England, 1967
The working committee met on July 29 and August 9, before and after the meeting of the full commission at Bristol. In a discussion on possible membership of Roman Catholics in the commission, Bishop Oliver Tomkins, the chairman of the commission, noted that "it was now becoming increasingly important to have adequate Roman Catholic membership in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of work." (36) The duplication was in reference to the joint theological commission, which, like Faith and Order itself, was preparing a study on hermeneutics. Lukas Vischer noted as a further complication the amount of time being asked of Faith and Order staff and commissioners who were active on both commissions. (37)
Faith and Order Commission, Bristol, England, 1967
The 1967 meeting of the Commission on Faith and Order took place 29 July to 9 August 1967. The list of participants of the 1967 meeting of the commission indicates the presence of four Roman Catholic observers: Fr R. Beaupere, Fr J. Coventry, Fr J. Long and Fr K. McNamara. (38)
In his opening address to the commission, Lukas Vischer recalled the impact of Vatican II on the theological work of Faith and Order in terms of agenda, but also in terms of theological dialogue within the wider ecumenical movement. (39) For instance, he notes the emergence of the bilateral dialogues within and between the "world confessional bodies"--later the Christian World Communions--"in part," he notes, "as a result of the Second Vatican Council." (40) Because of the particular conversations with the Roman Catholic Church and various Christian World Communions, there were new relations at the international level, such as Anglican--Orthodox dialogue and Lutheran World Federation--World Alliance of Reformed Churches dialogue. While Vischer notes that the bilateral conversations were extensions of the Faith and Order movement, there was the challenge about how the various dialogues would relate to one another. One response, agreed upon earlier by the working committee in 1966, was to invite the theological secretaries of the Christian World Communions to participate at the 1967 meeting of the Commission on Faith and Order; (41) in fact, there were six such representatives present at Bristol. The inclusion of representatives of the Christian World Communion as Fraternal Delegates moved Faith and Order beyond its traditional constituency of member churches to include the level of world communion representation.
On the fourth day of the meeting, during the discussion on the future work of Faith and Order, John Meyendorff spoke extensively about the new relationship that had emerged between Faith and Order and the Roman Catholic Church. Looking further ahead, he addressed the question of Roman Catholic members of the commission:
While the Joint Working Group gives us a beginning, the time has come to go further, and our new constitution helps us in this regard. We approved a proposal to increase the number of representatives of non-member churches. Steps towards filling these seats are to be taken without delay, with the necessary tact and through proper channels. In particular it is essential that by our next meeting we have sufficient Roman Catholic members to reflect the wide spectrum of Roman Catholic theological opinion. (42)
At the end of the meeting, Fr John Long, a Roman Catholic observer, closed his remarks on the meeting of the commission by stating:
Perhaps I could say here a word about Roman Catholic participation in Faith and Order work. We are very happy indeed at the discussion of this matter; it is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot continue to do our work in isolation from each other. I can assure you than any proposals coming from the Faith and Order Commission for closer collaboration will be very positively received. What we have heard here leads us to hope for an increase in work together in the near future. (43)
Directly after the Bristol meeting, a letter was sent to the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to explore the possibility of nominating members of the Roman Catholic Church to Faith and Order. While the initial response from the Secretariat was positive, the decision was being made at various levels within the Roman curia. A final response did not come from Rome until just prior to the 1968 WCC assembly, but it was positive, and the names of nine Roman Catholics were to be proposed for election at the assembly. Thus, one of the concrete results of the 1967 meeting of the commission was full participation in Faith and Order.
Faith and Order Commission and Working Group, Uppsala, Sweden, 1968
Faith and Order met three times around the 1968 Uppsala assembly of the WCC, which took place 4-20 July: the working committee met on 3 July, the commission met on 16 July, and the working committee met again from 21-23 July. The Uppsala assembly was a historic moment in the life of the WCC and the wider ecumenical movement, with particular challenges and outcomes for the Commission on Faith and Order. Of particular note was the election of Roman Catholics by the assembly to the commission.
The minutes of the working group prior to the assembly reflect the anticipated election of Roman Catholic theologians nominated to the commission, and thus, the increased Roman Catholic participation in all of Faith and Order's work. (44) The inclusion of Roman Catholics as full members of the commission ended their status as observers, guests and consultants.
Despite the many months of waiting for an answer from Rome about having Roman Catholics as members of the commission, there was still uncertainty with the working committee about the precise role of Roman Catholics within the commission: Would they be part of some theological commissions, such as one to continue the work of the joint theological commission, or should they be treated as regular, full members participating in all aspects of the life of the commission? (45) It was the latter proposal that reflected the widest agreement, which was confirmed at the meeting of the working committee in the days after the assembly. (46)
The members of the commission present in Uppsala met briefly for 90 minutes on the afternoon of 16 July; these were members of the new commission who had been elected by the assembly on 11 July. The new commission in 1968 included nine Roman Catholics: Fr Umberto Betti, OFM; Professor Raymond Brown, SS; Professor Walter Burghardt, SJ; Fr Bernard Dupuy, OP; Dom Emanuel Lanne, OSB; Professor Jorge Medina; Professor Samuel Rayan; Fr Th. Tshibangu; and as a consultant to the commission from the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, Fr Jerome Hamer. Last, but not least, among the first Roman Catholic members of the commission was Professor Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. Dom Emanuel Lanne and Jorge Medina were both elected to the working committee. (47) Significantly, the Roman Catholic members of the commission came from Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America, reflecting not only the global dimension of the Roman Catholic Church but also the regional balances so important for the WCC.
Ecumenical Observers at the Second Vatican Council
The question of ecumenical observers discussed with Visser 't Hooft in September 1960 was formally proposed in December 1960 and approved by Pope John XXIII in December 1961. The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, through Mgr Willebrands, further discussed the selection of the observers at the April 1962 meeting of the conference of secretaries of the Christian World Communions, meeting in Geneva. At the opening of the council in October 1962, there were 50 ecumenical observers and guests; the number grew to 186 by the end of the council. (48)
The minutes of the Faith and Order meetings record the presence of its members as observers at Vatican II. By the 1963 meeting of the Commission on Faith and Order, the minutes note that at least 10 members of the commission were observers at the Vatican Council, including Lukas Vischer. The presence of the ecumenical observers at the council was further enriched by the reciprocal presence of official Roman Catholic observers in Montreal in 1963. The members at the 1965 meeting of the working committee anticipated that members of the commission who were observers at the council meet in Rome as part of a Faith and Order consultation with the Secretariat for Unity. (49) The minutes of the 1966 meeting of the working committee note that Faith and Order staff members Lukas Vischer and Patrick Rodger attended the fourth session of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. (50)
I have compared the lists of names from the minutes of the Commission on Faith and Order, the minutes of the working committee, and the report of the Fourth World Conference with the lists of names in Observateurs-Delegues et Hotes du Secretariat pour l'Unite des Chretiens au Deuxieme Concile (Ecumenique du Vatican. (51) I have been able to identify the following people associated with Faith and Order in one way or another, who served as observers on behalf of the Christian World Communions or as guests of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity:
1. Dr William Baker (Disciples of Christ; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
2. Archpriest V. Borovoy (Moscow Patriarchate; member of the commission and later a member of the Secretariat on Faith and Order)
3. Dr (later Bishop) William Cannon (World Methodist Council; participant at the Fourth World Conference, later liaison officer from the World Methodist Conference to Faith and Order)
4. Dr Edgar Chandler (International Council of Congregationalists; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
5. Dr Robert Cushman (World Methodist Council; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
6. Dr Robert Dodds (National Councils of Churches of Christ-USA; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
7. Bishop Emilianos of Meloa (Ecumenical Patriarchate: consultant to Faith and Order in 1962 and a guest in 1964)
8. Professor Eugene Fairweather (Anglican Communion; member of the commission)
9. Dr Douglas Horton (Congregationalist; member and chair of the commission)
10. Dr Werner Kiippers (Old Catholic; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
11. Dr George Lindbeck (Lutheran World Federation; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
12. Dr Z. K. Matthews (WCC; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
13. Dr Jose Miguez-Bonino (World Methodist Council; member of the commission) 51
14. Dr Walter Muelder (World Methodist Council; guest of the commission in 1959, participant at the Fourth World Conference, member of the commission from 1968)
15. Professor Nikos Nissiotis (WCC; professor at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, and later moderator of Faith and Order).
16. Dr Albert Outler (World Methodist Council; member of the commission)
17. Dr John Reid (World Alliance of Reformed Churches; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
18. Dr Patrick Rodger (WCC; member of the Secretariat of Faith and Order, a member of the commission from 1968)
19. Archpriest John Romanides (Ecumenical Patriarchate: guest of Faith and Order in 1964)
20. Bishop Karekin Sarkissian (Armenian Orthodox; member of the commission)
21. E. Schlink (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland; member and vice-chairman of the commission)
22. Professor Kristen E. Skydsgaard (Lutheran World Federation; member and vicechairman of the commission)
23. Dr Seppo Teinonen (Lutheran World Federation; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
24. Dr John Thomas (World Alliance of Reformed Churches; participant at the Fourth World Conference)
25. Dr Lukas Vischer (WCC; research secretary and later director of Faith and Order)
26. Archpriest Liverji Voronov (Moscow Patriarchate; participant at the Fourth World Conference, member of the commission from 1968)
1. Dr Paul Evdokimov (Institut de theologie orthodoxe, St Serge; guest of the commission in 1965)
2. Dr William Norgren (National Council of Churches of Christ-USA; former member of Faith and Order Secretariat, special consultant to the commission)
3. Archpriest Alexander Schmemann (St Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary; member of the commission)
4. Br Max Thurian (Taize; special consultant, and later research consultant to Faith and Order)
Of course, none of these ecumenical scholars were formally representing the Faith and Order commission, not even the WCC observers. And yet, this body of 30 scholars active at different sessions and in different areas of Vatican II had engaged together in the work of Faith and Order and knew each other from the contexts of the ongoing meetings of the commission and especially the 1963 World Conference on Faith and Order in Montreal. These members of Faith and Order were undoubtedly among the most experienced in terms of ecumenical dialogue at the time. Yet I am not convinced that they ever met as a distinct group, apart from the weekly gatherings of all the ecumenical observers. The 1965 minutes reflect a hope that a significant number of Faith and Order members serving as observers could meet in Rome with the Secretariat for Unity to discuss questions around common prayer and communicatio in sacris. The list above suggests that such a meeting would have had a substantial Faith and Order attendance. The minutes, however, make no mention of such a meeting having taken place.
The impact of Faith and Order on Vatican II was not lost on the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. Fr Long, observer at the 1964 meeting of the Faith and Order commission, reported to the meeting that one of the things that commended ongoing collaboration with Faith and Order was "the role of the observers at the Second Vatican Council, whose collaboration was playing such a valuable role in helping Roman Catholics to a more profound understanding of their fellow Christians. (52)
Scripture, Tradition and Traditions, and Dei Verbum
Collectively, the aforementioned members of Faith and Order represented (unofficially, of course) the largest single grouping of ecumenical observers at Vatican II, with experience of ecumenical dialogue that at that time could only have come from Faith and Order. It would be difficult to imagine that their experience of the commision, and prior experience working together in Faith and Order, did not shape their responses and contributions to the debates at the Vatican council. A valuable continuation of this research would be to trace the ways the observers who were members of the commission acted as intermediaries between Faith and Order and the council. The same would be true of Roman Catholic scholars and advisers to the Vatican council, and how their experience of some of the same debates within Faith and Order shaped their own perspectives. While such an approach goes beyond the scope of this paper, it is worth citing words from the Memoirs of Visser 't Hooft on this point. As he recounts,
A Roman Catholic theologian, who served as a consultant at the council, said that if an edition of the council documents could be issued in which all passages that had been changed in the light of the remarks of the observers were printed in red the result would be a most colourful production. (53)
A fruitful area of study is the relationship of the Montreal World Conference on Faith and Order in 1963 and the Second Vatican Council. The major achievement of Montreal in this regard was the work on "Scripture, Tradition and Traditions" that was taking place at the same time as the debates in Rome "On the Sources of Revelation." Thus, a particular instance where Faith and Order and the Second Vatican Council impinged upon one another was Faith and Order's "Scripture, Tradition and Traditions" and the Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum.
Faith and Order reflection on the relationship between scripture and tradition, largely between Western traditions, began in 1927. In 1937 the discussions included a much greater Orthodox contribution. In 1954 the commission established a theological commission on Tradition and Traditions, the results of which were published in 1961 in The Old and the New in the Church, Faith and Order Paper no. 34. These earlier discussions were further elaborated in Montreal.
It is interesting to note that 11 ecumenical observers at the Second Vatican Council participated in a section at the Fourth World Conference that dealt with scripture, tradition and traditions: Eugene Fairweather, Douglas Horton, Werner Kuppers, George Lindbeck, Nikos Nissiotis, John Reid, Karekin Sarkissian, Seppo Teinonen, John Thomas, Lukas Vischer and Liverji Voronov. The Roman Catholic observers at Montreal who participated in the section on "Scripture, Tradition and Traditions" were Fr J. Drew, Fr J. Martucci, Fr. D. J. O'Hanlon and Fr Georges Tavard. Of these four, Georges Tavard was among a group of five theologians selected by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to prepare an initial text on the relationship between Scripture and tradition, well aware of the ecumenical consequences at stake.
In his account of Dei Verbum, Anglican observer Frederick Grant notes the reactions of one of the 11 ecumenical observers, Faith and Order member Douglas Horton, to the two-source theory of revelation at a meeting with the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity during the first session of the council, where he said: "Scripture and Tradition interpenetrate." (54) Roman Catholics, also present at Montreal, would challenge the two-source theory as well. Again, returning to Grant's account, one of the most vocal of the bishops was the Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Leger, who insisted that the first draft of the schema be abandoned. (55) Fr Yves Congar, OP, who was not present at Montreal but who sent a response to the working paper on "Tradition and Traditions" before Montreal 1963, (56) was also critical of the earlier text, and in March 1963 was requested by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to redraft the text "On the Sources of Revelation," as was future Faith and Order member Joseph Ratzinger.
The final text on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, is not identical to Faith and Order's "Scripture, Tradition and Traditions." But both concur that there is a single source of revelation, the word of God, that understands capital letter "T" Tradition as referring to the gospel itself. As Avery Dulles has summarized,
Just as Vatican II broke with the standard Catholic two-source theory, so the Montreal Conference on Faith and Order, meeting almost simultaneously, showed a disposition on the part of Protestants as well as Orthodox to assert the primacy and indispensability of tradition as against the "sola Scriptura" position. (57)
The ecumenical dimension of the final text, Dei Verbum, affirming a single source of revelation, was affirmed by French ecumenist Rene Girault, who observes that the end of the two-source theory of revelation has been seen as the symbolic end of the counter-Reformation. (58)
With a particular reference to Montreal 1963, Alberto Melloni's article in Alberigo's History of Vatican II sums up in a succinct way the sort of contribution that Faith and Order made throughout the Second Vatican Council in terms of a place of dialogue, as well as a substantive theological contribution:
The World Council of Churches continued to act as a meeting place for views on questions of substance. Thus the Faith and Order Colloquium [sic] on "Tradition and Tradition," held in Montreal, July 12-26, 1963, went to the heart of one of the key debates during the coming period of the Council. The presence of observers from the Secretariat for Christian Unity, the warm welcome given to the participants by Cardinal Leger, the fact that for the first time a Catholic (R. Brown) gave a report--all this gave the meeting an element of "reciprocity" and so of advance with regard to the non-Catholic presence at Vatican II. The reports and discussions there showed clearly how fortunate it was that the schema "On the Sources of Revelation" had been withdrawn during the first period; ecumenical circles regarded the way in which the relationship of scripture to tradition would be treated at the Council as decisive for grasping the truer and more lasting tendencies of the Roman Catholic Church. (59)
From its hesitant response in 1959 to the news of the Second Vatican Council, and a certain scepticism regarding its ecumenical scope, the Commission on Faith and Order was consistently open to a new relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. This openness was accompanied by initiatives that expanded the relationship with the council and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian unity in terms of expanded relationships with Roman Catholic scholars and institutions in Europe and beyond. Formal and informal dialogue between the commission and commissioners within Faith and Order theological study commissions, the Fourth World Conference and the joint theological commission developed in this period. The growing numbers of ecumenical observers at the Second Vatican Council included an ever expanding representation as well from Faith and Order; their impact on the council as a distinct group of scholars within the contribution of the larger body of ecumenical observers and guests is future work. The Faith and Order minutes note that the commission itself was well aware of the work of its members as observers at the council.
The growing inclusion of the Roman Catholic Church within the ecumenical movement in general and within the Faith and Order Commission in particular during the time of the Second Vatican Council also signified important changes, which the commission embraced. The council, and within it the presence of ecumenical observers, began a new stage of ecumenical dialogue, namely the bilateral dialogues between the Roman Catholic Church and the Christian World Communions, and between the world communions. Faith and Order was aware of the challenges and opportunities of this new situation, and in 1966 addressed it concretely by inviting the theological secretaries of the Christian World Communions to the 1967 meeting of the commission.
The initiative of inviting Roman Catholic guests and observers to meetings of the commission from 1959 would culminate in 1968 with the Roman Catholic Church as a full member of the WCC's Commission on Faith and Order, and members of its coordinating body, the working committee. The presence of Roman Catholics in Faith and Order from 1968 enabled the commission to become what its future moderator, Professor Nikos Nissiotis, would describe as the most comprehensive theological table in the world. Only such a global theological table at the multilateral level, made possible by the decisions of 1968, could have produced convergence statements on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry and The Church: Towards a Common Vision.
(1) I am grateful to my Faith and Order colleagues Dr Dagmar Heller, for proposing this particular topic to me, and Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, for being my immediate dialogue partner in discerning the direction in which the research for this topic has been pursued.
(2) Lukas Vischer, "The Council as an Event in the Ecumenical Movement," in History of Vatican II, vol. 5, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006), 485-539.
(3) Lukas Vischer, "The Ecumenical Movement and the Roman Catholic Church," in A History of the Ecumenical Movement, Volume 2, 1948-1968, ed. Harold C. Frey (Geneva: WCC, 1970), 313-52.
(4) The Church: Towards a Common Vision, Faith and Order Paper 214 (Geneva: WCC, 2013), [section][section] 54-57.
(5) Ibid, [section] 57.
(6) Minutes of the Working Committee on Faith and Order, Spittal, Austria, 1959 (Geneva: WCC, 1959), 18.
(7) Ibid, 18-19.
(8) Ibid., 19.
(9) Roman Catholics had attended Faith and Order meetings before. The list of delegates and others to the Third World Conference at Uppsala, 1952, for instance, notes the presence of three individuals identifiable as Roman Catholics. However, they are listed as "accredited visitors" and no indication of church affiliation is given. See Third World Conference on Faith and Order, Lund, 1952: List of Delegates appointed by their churches together with others attending the Conference (Commission on Faith and Order, August 1952).
(10) Minutes of the Faith and Order Commission, August 1960, St Andrew's, Scotland (Geneva: WCC, 1960), 2.
(11) Ibid, 108-109.
(12) Ibid, 117.
(13) See W. A. Visser 't Hooft, Memoirs (Geneva: WCC, 1987), 329-30.
(14) Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Christian Unity: Duty and Hope. For the 50ft Anniversary of the Foundation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (1960-2010) (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2010), 94.
(15) Minutes of the Faith and Order Working Committee, 1961 & 1962, New Delhi, India and Paris, France (Geneva: WCC, 1962), 8.
(16) Working Committee Minutes, 1962, 26.
(17) Visser't Hooft, Memoirs, 330; see also David Paton's comments on the same in his "Montreal Diary," Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order: The Report from Montreal, 1963, Faith and Order Paper No. 42 (London: SCM Press, 1964), 33-34.
(18) In P. C. Rodger and L. Vischer, eds., The Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order: The Report from Montreal, 1963, Faith and Order Paper No. 42 (London: SCM Press, 1964), 10-11.
(19) Paton, "Montreal Diary," 20.
(20) Rodger and Vischer, Fourth World Conference, 21.
(21) Ibid, 23.
(22) Ibid, 26.
(23) Ibid, 28.
(24) Ibid, 30.
(25) Minutes of the Faith and Order Commission and Working Committee, Montreal, Canada, 1963, Faith and Order Paper No. 41 (Geneva: WCC, 1963), 38.
(26) Ibid., 42.
(27) Minutes of the Faith and Order Commission and Working Committee, The University of Aarhus, Denmark, 15-27 August 1964, Faith and Order Paper No. 44 (Geneva: WCC, 1965), 6.
(28) Ibid, 11.
(29) Ibid., 38.
(30) Ibid., 11.
(31) Minutes of the Meeting of the Working Committee of Faith and Order, held as Bad Saarow, German Democratic Republic, 9-12 July 1965, Faith and Order Paper No. 45 (Geneva: WCC, 1965), 5-16.
(32) Ibid., 16-17.
(33) Ibid., 23.
(34) Minutes of the Meeting of the Working Committee, 1966 Zagorsk, Faith and Order Paper No. 48 (Geneva: WCC, 1967), 7.
(35) Ibid., 15.
(36) Minutes of the Meeting of the Working Committee, 1967 Bristol, Faith and Order Paper No. 51 (Geneva: WCC, 1967), 5.
(37) Ibid., 8.
(38) New Directions in Faith and Order, Bristol, 1967: Reports--Minutes--Documents, Faith and Order Paper No. 50 (Geneva: WCC, 1968), 84.
(39) Commission Minutes, 1967, 116-17.
(40) Ibid., 117.
(41) Ibid., 18.
(42) Ibid, 93.
(43) Ibid, 111.
(44) Minutes of the Meetings of the Faith and Order Commission and Working Committee Held at Uppsala and Sigtuna, Sweden, July 3-23, 1968, Faith and Order Paper No. 53 (Geneva: WCC, 1968), 26.
(45) Ibid., 7-8.
(46) Ibid., 26.
(47) Ibid., 30-36.
(48) See PCPCU, 50th Anniversary, 109-10.
(49) Working Committee Minutes, 1965, 17.
(50) Working Committee Minutes, 1966, 4.
(51) Observateurs-Delegues et Hotes du Secretariat pour l'Unite des Chretiens au Deuxieme Concile (Ecumenique du Vatican (Vatican: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1965). I extend my thanks to colleagues at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, particularly to Mgr Juan Usma Gomez and Fr Antony Curer, for providing me with a copy of this essential text.
(52) Working Committee Minutes, 1964, 38.
(53) Visser 't Hooft, Memoirs, 330.
(54) Frederick C. Grant, "Divine Revelation," in The Second Vatican Council: Studies by Eight Anglican Observers, Bernard Pawley (ed) (Oxford University Press, 1967), 35.
(55) Ibid., 31-32.
(56) Fourth World Conference, 1963, 23.
(57) Avery Dulles "Scripture: Recent Protestant and Catholic Views," Theology Today 37:1 (1980), 16-17.
(58) See Rene Girault, Construire l'Eglise Une (Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 1990), 50.
(59) Alberto Melloni, "The Beginning of the Second Period: The Great Debate on the Church," in History of Vatican II, vol. 3, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2000), 21-22.
John Gihaut is director of Faith and Order for the World Council of Churches.
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|Publication:||The Ecumenical Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2014|
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