VATICAN (CWN) -- While the Catholic Church longs for Christian unity, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is not open for negotiation, Cardinal Edward Cassidy told reporters yesterday. The cardinal, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, made his comments as he introduced a new Vatican document regarding the responsibilities of pastors in ecumenical work.

      "Regarding primacy, we have no intentions of conceding what is essential," Cardinal Cassidy said. "John Paul II has asked, very clearly, for a study on how it might be exercised. The question of primacy can perhaps be studied, then, in the hope of finding some agreement which would be acceptable to others. In this way the primacy could better serve its own end."

      The cardinal emphasized that papal primacy, in fact, should be seen as an ecumenical service, insofar as the Bishop of Rome is the symbol of Christian unity and the servant of all the local churches.

      Cardinal Cassidy also stressed that ecumenical work is an essential aspect of the Christian vocation. "It is not a question, then, of whether or not to do ecumenical work," he said. "As the Pope has said, this is part of the mission of the Church... If we wish to be disciples of Christ, we must work toward this unity-- not a unity of compromise or concession, but unity marking by searching together for the truth."

      Noting that "there is a great deal of confusion" regarding ecumenical dialogue, the cardinal said that the Catholic church "cannot sacrifice the truth in order to build ourselves a house on a foundation of sand. We must build a house on rock, and on truth."

      Cardinal Cassidy was making his remarks on the occasion of the release of a new Vatican Document for training on ecumenism. Five years after the publication of a directory for ecumenical work, the Vatican has produced a new document, giving pastors further guidance on how they should apply the essential principles of ecumenism to their own pastoral work. The new document stresses the need for providing training to priests and seminarians on ecumenical work.

      The 30-page document, entitled "The Ecumenical Dimension in the Formation of Those Who Work in Pastoral Ministry," was made public at the Vatican today. Cardinal Edward Cassidy introduced the document to the press. The document is divided into two parts: one concentrating on giving an "ecumenical dimension" to all theological studies, the other addressing the specific teaching on ecumenism itself.

      The document stresses the need to adapt ecumenical efforts to the particular situation of the local church. It encourages the search for "expressions of faith which can be reciprocally acceptable and transparent." While cautioning that the magisterium must exercise final judgment on any new approaches to the statement of Christian belief, the new work suggests that the process of developing common statements will encourage mutual understanding and the use of "an ecumenical language." The Vatican suggests that Catholic professors should be joined in their theological work, as often as practical, by scholars of other Christian traditions.

      The study of ecumenism, the second part of the document states, should be a required element of the curriculum for the formation of priests and pastoral workers. All ministers should have a clear sense of the Church's teachings on ecumenism, of the practical realities involved, and of the positions held by the other Christian communities. That understanding should include a confident grasp of theological questions such as the meaning of the Eucharist, the role of the Virgin Mary, and the authority of the Catholic Church.

      Finally, the document points attention toward the prospects for ecumenical cooperation in addressing contemporary challenges such as the need for ethical guidance in the development of medical technology, the response to the proliferation of religious sects, the dangers to the faith represented by nationalism, and the overall concern of secularization in culture.

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March 10, 1998 volume 9, no. 49         DAILY CATHOLIC