South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Directory for Ecumenism, 2000.


In the spirit of the Gospel expressed in the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one” (Jn. 17:21), the search for Christian unity was one of the primary aims of the Second Vatican Council (Decree on Ecumenism, 1). The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity issuing from the council then produced the Ecumenical Directory (1967 and 1970) and later drew up the Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993). It is in this spirit and quest for Christian unity in the Catholic Church that this Directory on Ecumenism for Southern Africa has been prepared and promulgated by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

The Directory on Ecumenism requires that diocesan bishops and episcopal conferences issue norms of application for dioceses and conference territories. This does not mean rewriting the directory, which contains general norms which are universally applicable. However, in the territories covered by the SACBC Catholics form less than 7.2 percent (2,880,000)of the total population 39,820,000 (1995), which is approximately 70 percent Christian, and in this context it is important that there be special norms for such a situation. (Directory on Ecumenism, 4, 6, 30, 31).

The postsynodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Africa of Pope John Paul II quotes Proposition 40 of the synod:

“United to Jesus Christ by their witness in Africa, Catholics are invited to develop an ecumenical dialogue with all their baptized brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations, in order that the unity for which Christ prayed may be achieved and in order that their service to the peoples of the continent may make the Gospel more credible in the eyes of those who are searching for God” (Ecclesia in Africa, 65).

1. History of Our Divisions in Southern Africa

1.1 Christianity came to southern Africa with the Portuguese navigators whose chaplain, it is said, celebrated Mass on the shores of the Cape of Good Hope but was permanently established only through the Dutch

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settlers, whose influence made some converts among the local inhabitants to the Reformed tradition. The Christian influence was strengthened by the arrival of the French Huguenots, who were fleeing religious persecution in Europe. But it was not until the arrival of the Moravian missionaries that a definite effort was made to evangelize the indigenous peoples.

1.2 Among the early German settlers there were missionaries who established Lutheran churches in the Cape and elsewhere. The same is true of the first British settlers, among whom there were ministers of the Anglican and Free Church traditions who not only ministered to their own faithful but also reached out to the Xhosa tribes.

1.3 The first resident Catholic bishop in the Cape, Bishop Griffiths, arrived in 1837. There were very few Catholics in the Cape, mainly of Irish extraction, many of whom were soldiers. It was to these isolated people that the priests ministered. There was not much mission outreach until the Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to Natal in 1852. They moved to the interior, to the Free State, to Basutoland (now Lesotho), the Northern Cape and Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and the Transvaal and in 1896 entered Namibia. In 1882 they were followed into Natal by the Trappists, who later became the Congregation of Missionaries of Mariannhill and were instrumental in bringing great numbers of Zulus into the Catholic fold. That same year, 1882, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales began missionary work in the North Western Cape.

1.4 The first missionaries brought the faith to southern Africa in the context of European culture with the European historical background of division among Christians. This contributed toward the establishment of the African independent churches, whose founders wanted to organize their churches and worship as Africans and not as Europeans. Following the example of the divided mainline churches, they created new denominations.

1.5 At the turn of the century new denominations were introduced from the United States of America, including Pentecostalism. These influenced the establishment of the Ethiopian churches and the Zion Christian churches, which claim the largest membership among the Christians of this country. Because of their syncretism there are some Christians in mainline churches who would deny them the use of the term Christian. However, they do give an example of making Africans feel at home.

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1.6 From the time of the First World War, more Catholic missionary congregations arrived in southern Africa. Their ministry brought about a phenomenal increase of conversions among blacks, especially in rural areas. The establishment of the hierarchy in 1951 allowed for better organization and distribution of personnel.

1.7 In the Republic of South Africa many Christian leaders and members of the laity were united in their struggle against apartheid. Their efforts to fight apartheid were coordinated in the establishment of the South African Council of Churches. Although the Catholic Church had only observer status, after Vatican II there was considerable cooperation in the areas of social concern. It was only after the Second Vatican Council that the Catholic Church became involved in ecumenical cooperation, and dialogue began to take root. Formal dialogue has since taken place between the Catholic Church on the one hand and the Anglicans, the Pentecostals and the Dutch Reformed churches on the other, while friendly relations are maintained with all the mainline churches. It is only recently that attempts have been made to reach out to the African independent churches. In 1995 the Catholic Church became a full member of the SACC, having previously held observer status from the beginning.

2. Promoting the Catholic Church’s Contribution to Ecumenism (Directory on Ecumenism, 37-54)

2.1 As noted in the Directory on Ecumenism, the local church can contribute in many fruitful ways to the cause of ecumenism (Directory on Ecumenism, 38). In order to assist the Catholic Church in our own region to do so, the following structures and goals should be put in place:

2.1.1 In each diocese of the territory of the SACBC the bishop must appoint a competent person as diocesan officer for ecumenism (Directory on Ecumenism, 41).

2.1.2 In addition to exploring ways of promoting ecumenism with the more traditionally structured churches, attention must be given as a matter of urgency to exploring ways of promoting ecumenical dialogue and cooperation with the African independent/indigenous/initiated churches.

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2.2 Wherever possible the bishop should set up a commission or secretariat which should assist the diocesan officer in promoting ecumenism (Directory on Ecumenism, 41).

2.3 The diocesan officer and, where they exist, the diocesan commission or secretariat for ecumenism should collaborate with the Department of Ecumenism of the SACBC as well as the regional council of churches and the associations of local ministers.

2.4 Institutes of Consecrated Life

2.4.1 The Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Southern Africa, in collaboration with the SACBC Department of Ecumenism, should seek contact and cooperation with religious wherever they exist in other Christian churches, e.g., by sharing conferences and retreats (Directory on Ecumenism, 50).

2.4.2 Educational and health institutions which are directed and served by institutes of consecrated life: Should continue to serve Christians of all denominations as well as persons of other faiths and convictions. Must make it possible for the ministers of other churches and religions to minister to their members who are resident in these institutions.

2.5 Lay organizations should strive wherever possible to cooperate with similar organizations in other churches on the level of prayer and action. In particular, where organizations are devoted to socially uplifting activities, the cooperation should exist not simply on the level of action but also and especially on the level of prayerful reflection on the faith that is the common spur to that action (Directory on Ecumenism, 161).

2.6 The possibility of creating pastoral structures with representatives of other Christian churches should be explored, paying particular attention to whatever canonical issues may arise. For example, parish pastoral councils could explore with similar bodies in their area the possibility of reciprocal representation on such bodies. In this way Catholics and members of other Christian churches will be drawn together in matters of common pastoral concern.

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3. Ecumenical Formation in the Catholic Church (Directory on Ecumenism, 55-91)

3.1 “Concern for restoring unity is the responsibility of all members of the church, faithful and clergy alike” (Directory on Ecumenism, 55). Central to the process of growth in unity is growth in our understanding of the Word that binds us together. The Scriptures are the inspired testimony to that Word and as such constitute the source to which the church’s understanding of its faith must return again and again in order to deepen, purify and enrich the tradition of faith built on the Word witnessed to within it (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, 21). This conviction we hold in common with other Christians. Hence central to the process is our growth in the understanding of the Scriptures (Directory on Ecumenism, 59).

3.2 However, more is needed. The importance of striving for Christian unity needs to be brought into our programs of catechetical and theological training. We need not only to educate people as to its importance but make the very process of catechizing and theological education an ecumenical one (Directory on Ecumenism, 161).


To achieve the above, the following recommendations are made:

3.3 That Catholics study the Scriptures in Bible study groups not only among themselves but also with other Christians, making use of suitable programs where possible.

3.4 That in catechetical instruction of youth and adults the teachings on the unity and catholicity of the church be structured in such a way as to bring out the tragedy of a divided Christianity and the importance of seeking unity. In such teachings the ways in which the concepts of unity and catholicity can contribute rather than run counter to Christian unity should be made clear.

3.5 That in seminaries and institutes of higher studies room be made in the curriculum for a specific course on ecumenism, and that wherever possible the ecumenical dimension be included in all of the theological disciplines taught. It is especially important to seek ways of exposing students to lecturers drawn from other Christian churches. Where

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appropriate, seminarians should be enabled to study with candidates for the ministry for other churches, and where cooperative structures already exist, ways should be sought of participating in them (see the more detailed comments made in Directory on Ecumenism, 192-203).

4. Promoting Community Life and Spiritual Activity Between Baptized Christians

4.1 The sacrament of baptism and its importance (Directory on Ecumenism, 92-101).

4.1.1 By the sacrament of baptism a person is truly incorporated into Christ and into his church, and is reborn to a sharing of the divine life. Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn (Directory on Ecumenism, 92).


In order to give full recognition to the bond that binds the baptized, especially where there is a genuine striving to overcome the historical divisions that weigh upon us, the following recommendations are made:

4.1.2 As regards the validity of baptism, the findings of earlier commissions appointed by the SACBC concerning the recognition of the baptisms performed by other Christian churches in our region should be disseminated to all priests and deacons and form part of catechetical and theological instruction on baptism. In cases where doubts may continue to exist concerning a particular church’s baptismal practice, dialogue with that church must be sought as a matter of urgency in order to resolve the issue (Directory on Ecumenism, 94).

4.1.3 As regards the minister, the traditional practice of only one minister performing the actual act of baptizing (viz., the pouring with water while proclaiming the baptismal formula) is to be retained. However, wherever appropriate a minister of another Christian church should be invited to participate in the other parts of the baptismal liturgy, e.g. readings, prayers, etc. An obvious case where this would apply would be the baptism of a child, one of whose parents belongs to another Christian church (Directory on Ecumenism, 97).

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4.1.4 As regards official sponsors and witnesses, except for Eastern Orthodox Christians, the Directory on Ecumenism forbids members of other Christian churches to be one of the official sponsors at a baptism performed in the Catholic Church (Directory on Ecumenism, 98). However, the permission that is given for others to act as witnesses provided there is at least one confirmed and practicing Catholic acting as an official sponsor should be utilized to the full. Here too it should be encouraged that wherever appropriate a confirmed practicing member of another Christian church be invited to act as a witness. The names of such witnesses should be entered as such into the baptismal register. The reason why Christians of the Orthodox Church are singled out there is because the Catholic Church understands itself as having deeper bonds of faith and sacramental structures with the Orthodox Church than with Christian communities issuing from the Reformation. Nevertheless, we also encourage theological reflection on the extent to which the distinction should be retained that is made between Eastern Orthodox Christians and those of one or other of the Western churches and ecclesial communities in this matter of official sponsors.

4.1.5 As regards conversions, while proposing humbly our conviction that “the church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium) we affirm that any form of proselytism is unworthy witness. Instead, as with the Eastern Orthodox churches, the emphasis should fall on seeking unity between Christian churches. Nevertheless, those individual Christians who seek full communion with the Catholic Church are to be welcomed.

4.1.6 As regards rites of initiation, the rites to be followed for admitting validly baptized Christians into full communion with the Catholic Church must not be allowed to give the impression that someone is becoming a member of Christ’s body for the first time (Directory on Ecumenism, 100). The ceremony must be structured in such a way as to give full recognition to the Christian faith and experience that the person brings with him or her. The emphasis should be on receiving a brother or sister Christian into fuller communion with us. In the rites of initiation a clear distinction must be made between catechumens (unbaptized) and those who are already baptized in other Christian churches (Rite of Christian Initiation).

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pg. 681 Christians who were baptized in other Christian churches and who seek full communion in the Catholic Church should be examined regarding their motivation in order to ensure that it is not for purposes unrelated to their convictions of faith. Examples of insufficient reasons are because it is nearer to their home, because the spouse is a Catholic, because of disputes with their own minister, etc. Preparation for the reception of Christians into full communion should, wherever possible, build on the Christian knowledge they already have. Such knowledge may even include an extensive familiarity with the Catholic faith. However, even in the latter case it may be necessary to take time to enable such people to adjust to the duties and responsibilities of daily Catholic life rather than admit people to full communion too soon after the request is made.

4.2 The sacrament of confirmation.

4.2.1 “In the present state of our relations with the ecclesial communities of the Reformation of the 16th century we have not yet reached agreement about the significance or sacramental nature or even of the administration of the sacrament of confirmation. Therefore, under the present circumstances, persons entering into full communion with the Catholic Church from one of these communities are to receive the sacrament of confirmation according to the doctrine and rite of the Catholic Church before being admitted to eucharistic communion” (Directory on Ecumenism, 101).


In view of this, the following recommendation is made:

4.2.2 Where Christians who are received into full communion with the Catholic Church have not received the sacrament of confirmation, the latter should be administered to them on their reception, prior to their participating as full members of the Catholic Church in its celebration of the eucharist.

5. Sharing Spiritual Activities and Resources

5.1 “In spite of the serious difficulties which prevent full communion, it is clear that all those who by baptism are incorporated into Christ share

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many elements of the Christian life. There thus exists a real, even if imperfect, communion among Christians which can be expressed in many ways, including sharing in prayer and liturgical worship” (Directory on Ecumenism, 104).


The following recommendations flow from the above as regards ecumenical prayer and nonsacramental liturgical worship:

5.2 Catholics are encouraged to join in prayer with Christians of other churches.

5.2.1 Participation in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity should be seriously encouraged in all parishes and religious houses (Directory on Ecumenism, 110).

5.3 The opportunities for sharing on a regular basis in nonsacramental liturgical worship should also be explored by diocesan and parish pastoral councils and where appropriate by less formal, friendly ecumenical meetings of clergy and laity representing different churches and ecclesial communities. (Directory on Ecumenism, 116-119).

5.3.1 Where such opportunities exist, Catholics are to be encouraged to participate in such worship. Other Christian communities are to be invited to nonsacramental Catholic forms of worship. In view of the above, the possibility of engaging in worship with one or more of the African independent churches ought to be explored.

5.4 The burial of members of each other’s churches should be determined on the local diocesan level. In terms of this directory, deceased members of other Christian churches may be buried with Catholic rites, especially in the case of a deceased spouse (Directory on Ecumenism, 120). Deceased Catholics may in turn be buried with the rites of another Christian church should there be a justifying reason for doing so according to diocesan norms.

5.5 Despite the difficulties that can exist, the symbolism of sharing a single building for worship can be of great value in binding different Christian churches together. In situations where a parish is in need of

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a building for worship, the bishop should in the first instance consider whether or not it would be advisable to share an already existing building belonging to another Christian church or to erect a new one in partnership with such a church (cf. Directory on Ecumenism, 138).

6. Sharing Sacramental Celebrations

6.1 “A sacrament is an act of Christ and his church through the Spirit. Its celebration in a concrete community is the sign of the reality of its unity in faith, worship and community life. As well as being signs, sacraments most specially the eucharist are sources of the unity of the Christian community and of spiritual life, and are means for building them up. Thus eucharistic communion is inseparably linked to full ecclesial communion and its visible expression.

6.2 “At the same time, the Catholic Church teaches that by baptism members of other churches and ecclesial communities are brought into real, even if imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church and that ‘baptism, which constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn ... is wholly directed toward the acquiring of fullness of life in Christ’ [Decree on Ecumenism, 22]. The eucharist is for the baptized a spiritual food which enables them to overcome sin and to live the very life of Christ, to be incorporated more profoundly in him and share more intensely in the whole economy of the mystery of Christ” (Directory on Ecumenism, 129).

6.3 Governing Principles

6.3.1 The principles governing sacramental sharing laid down in the Directory on Ecumenism can be summarized as follows:

(a) The sacraments and most especially the eucharist are signs as well as sources of unity and therefore are properly open as a matter of course only to those who are in full ecclesial communion with each other.

(b) Baptism creates a bond between all the baptized which seeks its full expression in eucharistic communion (Directory on Ecumenism, 129).

6.3.2 The general rule flowing from these principles is therefore that abstinence from shared sacramental worship is the normal state of affairs, but

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circumstances can exist in which such a sharing becomes not only permissible but commendable. As the Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism expresses it: “In general the Catholic Church permits access to its eucharistic communion and to the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick only to those who share its oneness in faith, worship and ecclesial life. For the same reasons, it also recognizes that in certain circumstances, by way of exception and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments may be permitted or even commended for Christians of other churches and ecclesial communities” (Directory on Ecumenism, 129).

6.3.3 The circumstances in which such sharing is justified are (a) danger of death and (b) other cases of grave and pressing need determined by proper authorities (Directory on Ecumenism, 130), keeping in mind the conditions mentioned in 6.3.6 below.

6.3.4 The norms for judging when such a need exists should be laid down by the diocesan bishop (Directory on Ecumenism, 130).

6.3.5 The pastoral advisability of permitting sharing the sacraments depends both on the general situation of the local worshiping community and on the conditions to be met by the individual persons concerned.

6.3.6 When a grave and pressing need justifies such sharing, the following conditions are to be met:

(a) The person admitted to such sharing must seek it of his or her own initiative.

(b) Must be unable to receive the sacrament from a minister of his or her own church.

(c) Must manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament.

(d) Must have the proper dispositions for the fruitful reception of it (Directory on Ecumenism, 131).

6.3.7 As regards (b) in 6.3.6 above, this inability need not be one that exists over a period of time but could arise out of the nature of the situation in which the petitioner finds himself or herself.

6.3.8 As regards (c)in 6.3.6 above, it is important to recall that there is a crucial distinction between the substance of the faith and the way

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in which it is expressed. What is required is unity in the substance of the faith. Moreover, in judging whether or not such unity is present, one could consult those ecumenical agreements that display the existence of a substantial agreement in faith, while recognizing that such statements are not binding on the Catholic Church until they have been approved by appropriate ecclesiastical authorities (cf. Directory on Ecumenism, 178). But in the final analysis what is required is that the individual requesting admission to the eucharist must personally manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament.


In view of the above the following recommendations are made. These are permissive, not prescriptive, since they clarify what can be done within the framework of church discipline.

6.4 Since “the salvation of souls is the supreme law,” in danger of death the above norms are not to be interpreted narrowly. Pastoral considerations must predominate when in such circumstances Christians from other churches wish to receive the sacraments of penance, anointing of the sick or the eucharist.

6.5 In cases other than danger of death, provided that conditions (a) to (d) mentioned in 6.3.6 above are fulfilled, the following guidelines apply:

6.5.1 As regards baptismal celebrations, Christians of other churches who so wish are to be encouraged to participate as fully as possible. Similarly, Catholics are to be encouraged to participate, where invited, in baptismal celebrations of other Christian churches (see 4.1.3 and 4.1.4).

6.5.2 As regards the sacraments of the sick and of penance, in the absence of the appropriate minister of their own church, the mere request for such sacraments can be taken as evidence of pressing spiritual need and the sacrament may be administered.

6.5.3 As regards the eucharist, a grave and pressing spiritual need can very well arise for a Christian from another church or ecclesial community when attending a eucharistic celebration for a special feast or event. For apart from providing for the spiritual need in question, it can also be seen as

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expressing the real but imperfect communion that already exists between that Christian and the Catholic Church (cf. Directory on Ecumenism, 129). However, the admission of such persons to eucharistic communion must always be in conformity with 6.3.6 above and diocesan norms. It has been a longstanding pastoral practice in the Catholic Church not to refuse someone who comes to receive communion in good faith. However, where possible and according to circumstances, the person concerned should afterward be informed of the Catholic discipline. As regards spouses of a mixed marriage who attend Mass together in a Catholic Church, see 7.13 below.

6.5.4. The guidelines given above must not be allowed to lead to a situation where the divisions between Christians are no longer taken seriously. Catholics must therefore be educated as to the reasons why abstinence from eucharistic sharing is the general norm and why only a limited form of such sharing is possible. Catholics also need to be educated to take seriously the fact that the degrees of visible unity between the Catholic Church and other churches can differ. In the case where the visible unity is very close e.g., in the case of the Orthodox Church less weight (from a Catholic perspective) may be placed on the divisions and more on the unity already possessed, thus justifying a far freer sharing in the sacraments in general and the eucharist in particular. Hence “Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, eucharist and the anointing of the sick to members of the Eastern churches, who ask for these sacraments of their own free will and are properly disposed” (Directory on Ecumenism, 125). In cases where the visible unity is marred by very many serious divisions, more emphasis needs to be placed on bearing truthful witness to the sad state of the division, thus justifying a more limited form of sacramental sharing.

6.5.5 As regards Catholics seeking to receive the sacraments from pastors in other churches, the same circumstances apply as noted above in 6.3.6 (viz., regarding need, substantial agreement in faith, etc.). Catholics must also have due respect for the ecclesiastical discipline that may operate in the church in which they seek to receive a particular sacrament. The Directory on Ecumenism also notes a further condition, namely, that sacraments require a validly ordained ministry.

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pg. 687 As regards the Eastern Orthodox churches, this further condition is already fulfilled (Directory on Ecumenism, 122129). However, it is important once again to remember that due respect must be had for the ecclesiastical discipline that may operate in the church in which Catholics seek to receive a particular sacrament. As regards the churches and ecclesial communities arising out of the divisions that occurred in the West at the time of the Reformation, questions of eucharist and ministry are still matters to be resolved in dialogue. In this situation the words of the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism apply, namely that Catholics can receive the sacraments of eucharist, penance and anointing only “from a minister in whose church those sacraments are valid or from one who is known to be validly ordained according to the Catholic teaching on ordination” (Directory on Ecumenism, 132).

6.5.6 Where it is not permissible for Catholics to receive the sacraments in another church, they should be educated to take the pain of Christian divisions sufficiently seriously to use that opportunity to pray and pledge themselves to strive for Christian unity.

7. Interchurch Marriages

7.1 For the sake of easy reference, we recall here the salient sections of the Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism as well as to sections of Familiaris Consortio.

7.2 Pastoral and canonical questions connected with either the actual celebration of the sacrament of Christian marriage or the pastoral care to be given to Christian families form part of the general pastoral care of every bishop or regional conference of bishops (Directory on Ecumenism, 143).

7.3 In view of the growing number of mixed marriages in many parts of the world, the church includes within its urgent pastoral solicitude couples preparing to enter or already having entered such marriages. These marriages, even if they have their own particular difficulties, “contain numerous elements that could well be made good use of and developed both for their intrinsic value and for the contribution they can

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make to the ecumenical movement. This is particularly true when both parties are faithful to their religious duties. Their common baptism and the dynamism of grace provide the spouses in these marriages with the basis and motivation for expressing unity in the sphere of moral and spiritual values” (Familiaris Consortio, 78; cf. Directory on Ecumenism, 145).

7.4 It is the abiding responsibility of all, especially priests and deacons and those who assist them in pastoral ministry to provide special instruction and support for the Catholic party in living his or her faith as well as for the couples in mixed marriages both in the preparation for the marriage, in its sacramental celebration and for the life together that follows the marriage ceremony. Respect should be shown for the particular circumstances of each couple’s situation, the conscience of each partner and the holiness of the state of sacramental marriage itself (Directory on Ecumenism, 146).

7.5 In fulfilling this responsibility, where the situation warrants it positive steps should be taken, if possible, to establish contacts with the minister of the other church or ecclesial community, even if this may not always prove easy. In general, mutual consultation between Christian pastors for supporting such marriages and upholding their values can be a fruitful field of ecumenical collaboration (Directory on Ecumenism, 147).

7.6 In conducting the necessary marriage preparation programs, the priest or deacon and those who assist him should stress the positive aspects of what the couple share together as Christians in the life of grace, in faith, hope and love, along with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each party, while continuing to be faithful to his or her Christian commitment and to the practice of it, should seek to foster all that leads to unity and harmony, without minimizing real differences and while avoiding an attitude of religious indifference (Directory on Ecumenism, 148).

7.7 Because of problems concerning eucharistic sharing which may arise from the presence of nonCatholic witnesses and guests, a mixed marriage celebrated according to the Catholic form ordinarily takes place outside the eucharistic liturgy. For a just cause, however, the diocesan bishop may permit the celebration of the eucharist. In the latter case the decision as to whether the nonCatholic party of the marriage may be admitted to eucharistic communion is to be made in keeping with the

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general norms existing in the matter both for Eastern Christians (Directory on Ecumenism, 125) and for other Christians (ibid., 129-131), taking into account the particular situation of the reception of the sacrament of Christian marriage by two baptized persons (ibid., 159).

7.8 Although the spouses in a mixed marriage share the sacraments of baptism and marriage, eucharistic sharing can only be exceptional, and in each case the norms concerning the admission of a non-Catholic Christian to eucharistic communion (Directory on Ecumenism, 125, 130, 131; cf. also 6.1 to 6.3.8 above), as well as those concerning the participation of a Catholic in eucharistic communion in another Church (Directory on Ecumenism, 132; cf. also 6.5.5 above) must be observed (Directory on Ecumenism, 160).


7.9 Catholics and members of other churches who are entering into the covenant of marriage must be adequately prepared to make an ecumenical partnership of their marriage as envisaged by the postsynodal exhortation Familiaris Consortio, while respecting the responsibilities of the Catholic partner regarding the practice of the faith and the education of the children (Familiaris Consortio, 78; cf. Directory on Ecumenism, 150-151).

7.10 Full use should be made of the opportunities for the granting of a dispensation from the canonical form of marriage for a just and reasonable cause.

7.11 Pastors should make the full use of opportunities afforded for ecumenical celebrations for mixed marriages, taking note of the following: “One must keep in mind that, if the wedding is celebrated with a dispensation from canonical form, some public form of celebration is still required for validity. To emphasize the unity of marriage, it is not permitted to have two separate religious services in which the exchange of consent would be expressed twice or even one service which would celebrate two such exchanges of consent jointly or successively” (Directory on Ecumenism, 156).

7.12 Special consideration should be given to spouses in an interchurch (i.e., mixed) marriage who may wish to approach these sacraments together, if their situation justifies it.

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7.13 A unique situation exists as regards spouses of a mixed marriage who attend Mass together in a Catholic Church. The uniqueness consists in the fact that their baptismal unity in Christ has been still further sealed by the sacramentality of their marriage bond, a bond that of its very nature seeks to be expressed and deepened by the unity of the couple at the eucharistic table. Hence a spouse in such a marriage, now commonly called an interchurch marriage, could well experience a serious spiritual need to receive holy communion on occasions when he or she accompanies the family to a Catholic Mass. Requests for this kind of eucharistic hospitality should be referred by the parish priest to the local ordinary. However, this must be linked to 6.3.5.

7.14 It is against freedom of religion and the dignity of women that a wife should be expected to join the church of her husband or that pressure be put on either spouse to convert on the pretext of achieving unity of faith.

8. Conclusion

The unity of the church and its mission are essentially linked. Jesus prayed that all his followers would be one so that the world might believe (Jn. 17:21). Promoting the restoration of unity among all Christians was one of the chief concerns of the Second Vatican Council (Directory on Ecumenism, 1). All subsequent ecumenical documents of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have stressed the urgency of promoting unity among Christians.

Therefore the bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference have the following exhortation for the clergy and laity alike of the Catholic Church in southern Africa: With prudence and with love, through dialogue and collaboration with the members of other churches and ecclesial communities and in fidelity to Catholic life and teaching, strive with renewed zeal and urgency to promote the unity for which Jesus Christ prayed and offered his life that the world might believe.

Origins 29 (1999-2000): 733-738.