What does Okumene

Keyword: What is ecumenism?

The concept of ecumenism is derived from the ancient Greek word "oikein". This literally means "the whole inhabited earth". Early Christianity thus described the entire church. For this reason, the first seven councils are also regarded as "ecumenical councils", because at that time there was no division into different Christian denominations.

Protestant churches emerged after the Reformation

When the church split into Eastern and Western churches in the 11th century - and Protestant churches emerged after the Reformation in the 16th century - the word took on a new meaning. The ecumenical movement of modern times still means the worldwide communion of the churches, but above all it stands for the efforts for the unity of the separated Christians. There is cooperation above all in areas that are undisputed in terms of canon law or religious ethics. In this sense, ecumenism can even be understood as a movement for renewal. She wants to bring the different denominations closer together again.

In order to achieve the goal of greater unity, interest groups from various churches were initially formed within the denominations. The International Evangelical Alliance came into being in the 19th century. According to their own statements, this association of theologically conservative Christians today represents more than 300 million believers from 121 countries. In 1910 the World Mission Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, gave the movement decisive impetus.

World Council of Churches sits in Geneva

The modern ecumenical movement agreed on three main goals: the search for unity of the churches, the commitment to peace and social justice, and the evangelization of humanity. 38 years and two world wars later, the World Council of Churches (WCC) - the World Council of Churches - was founded with its seat in Geneva. In the past decades, the focus of the work has been on the church's concillary process for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. The World Council of Churches currently comprises around 350 Reformation, Orthodox and Anglican churches with around 560 million Christians. The Catholic Church is not a WCC member, but has observer status and participates in some programs. She has been an active participant in the ecumenical movement since the beginning of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). She also conducts a large number of dialogues with Orthodox and Reformation churches.

The most prominent event in Catholic-Protestant ecumenism was the 1999 declaration by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation on the so-called doctrine of justification. Both found a common denominator in the theological question of how man can stand before God. The dispute over this question had largely led to the split in the church in the 16th century.

Catholic document causes incomprehension

Less than a year later, the document "Dominus lesus" caused confusion and incomprehension. Published by the then chairman of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the document emphasizes a uniqueness of the Catholic Church and at the same time denies the Reformation churches that they are church in the "real sense". Despite heated discussions over the years, Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, confirmed this position of the Vatican with his signature in 2007 in a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A highlight of the ecumenical work at the federal level was the first Ecumenical Church Congress in 2003 in Berlin. Initiated by the denominational lay associations of the German Evangelical Church Congress and the Central Committee of German Catholics, it offers Christians of both denominations the opportunity to get information, to exchange ideas and to get to know each other.

The second Ecumenical Church Congress in Munich also has this goal. Dealing with faith and the church are just as much a focus as pressing questions from politics, society and the current world situation. In addition, a large space should be given to the dialogue between the religions.

Author: Klaus Krämer

Editor: Marcus Bölz