Excerpts from DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM for Interchurch Families: the concept of Exceptional

Pages 9 – 12  ………. Excerpts from DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM for Interchurch Families: Implications found in  Vatican II Documents for Interchurch Families

IMG_1765 church tower in Meissen


PONTIFICIUM CONSILIUM AD CHRISTIANORUM UNITATEM FOVENDAM                                                    DIRECTORY FOR THE APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES AND NORMS ON ECUMENISM                                                               http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_25031993_principles-and-norms-on-ecumenism_en.html

Have you ever wondered just what the Vatican has to say about the role that the pursuit of Christian Unity should be in our lives? 

Have you ever wondered if Christian Unity is actually the focus of the Roman Catholic Church? 

Have you ever wondered exactly what the Vatican does say about “mixed marriages” or what is also know as “Interchurch Marriages”?                                        

Below you will find some excerpts from The Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism. 

The entire document can be found at the Vatican Website at the link above. I would urge you to spend some time reading/studying this document in search of the positive potential that can be found within it. 


Excerpts from



1. The search for Christian Unity was one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. The Ecumenical Directory, called for during the Council and published in two parts, one in 1967 and the other in 1970,1 “has given a most valuable service in directing, coordinating and developing the ecumenical effort.” 2 …

To Whom is the Directory Addressed

4. The Directory is addressed to the Pastors of the Catholic Church, but it also concerns all the faithful, who are called to pray and work for the unity of Christians, under the direction of their Bishops. The Bishops, individually for their own dioceses, and collegially for the whole Church, are, under the authority of the Holy See, responsible for ecumenical policy and practice. 5

5. At the same time it is hoped that the Directory will also be useful to members of Churches and ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

They share with Catholics a concern for the quality of ecumenical activity. It will be an advantage for them to know the direction those guiding the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church wish to give to ecumenical action, and the criteria that are officially approved in the Church. It will help them to evaluate the initiatives that come from Catholics, so as to respond to them adequately, and will also help them better to understand the Catholic responses to their initiatives.

It should be kept in mind that the Directory does not intend to deal with the relations of the Catholic Church with sects or with new religious movements.  6

Outline of the Directory

7. The Directory begins with a declaration of the commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenism (Chapter I). This is followed by an account of the steps taken by the Catholic Church to put this commitment into practice. It does this through the organization and formation of its own members (Chapters II and III). It is to them thus organized and formed, that the provisions of Chapters IV and V on ecumenical activity are addressed.

I. The Search for Christian Unity

The ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church based on the doctrinal principles of the Second Vatican Council.

II. Organization in the Catholic Church at the Service of Christian Unity

Persons and structures involved in promoting ecumenism at all levels, and the norms that direct their activity.

III. Ecumenical Formation in the Catholic Church

Categories of people to be formed, those responsible for formation; the aim and methods of formation; its doctrinal and practical aspects.

IV. Communion in Life and Spiritual Activity Among the Baptized

The communion that exists with other Christians on the basis of the sacramental bond of Baptism, and the norms for sharing in prayer and other spiritual activities, including in particular cases sacramental sharing.

V. Ecumenical Cooperation, Dialogue and Common Witness

Principles, different forms and norms for cooperation between Christians with a view to dialogue and common witness in the world.

8. Thus, in a time of increasingly marked secularization, which calls Christians to common action in their hope for the Kingdom of God, the norms that regulate relations between Catholics and other Christians and the different forms of collaboration they practice are laid down, so that the promotion of the unity desired by Christ may be sought in a balanced and consistent way, in the line of, and according to the principles established by the Second Vatican Council.


9. The ecumenical movement seeks to be a response to the gift of God’s grace which calls all Christians to faith in the mystery of the Church according to the design of God who wishes to bring humanity to salvation and unity in Christ through the Holy Spirit. This movement calls them to the hope that the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one” will be fully realized. 9 

It calls them to that charity which is the new commandment of Christ and the gift by which the Holy Spirit unites all believers. 

The Second Vatican Council clearly asked Catholics to reach out in love to all other Christians with a charity that desires and works actively to overcome in truth whatever divides them from one another.

For the Council, Catholics are to act in hope and in prayer to promote Christian unity. 

Divisions among Christians and the Re-establishing of Unity

Human folly and human sinfulness however have at times opposed the unifying purpose of the Holy Spirit and weakened that power of love which overcomes the inherent tensions in ecclesial life. From the beginning of the Church certain rifts came into being. … The Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council recognizes that some dissensions have come about “for which often enough men of both sides were to blame”. 26

Yet however much human culpability has damaged communion, it has never destroyed it.

…..20. The Catholic Church solemnly pledged itself to work for Christian unity at the Second Vatican Council. … The Council affirms that this unity by no means requires the sacrifice of the rich diversity of spirituality, discipline, liturgical rites and elaborations of revealed truth that has grown up among Christians in the measure that this diversity remains faithful to the apostolic Tradition.

21. Since the time of the Second Vatican Council ecumenical activity in the entire Catholic Church has been inspired and guided by various documents and initiatives of the Holy See and, in particular Churches, by documents and initiatives of Bishops, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences. Also to be noted is the progress made in different kinds of ecumenical dialogue and in the manifold forms of ecumenical collaboration undertaken. Ecumenism has, in the words of the Synod of Bishops of 1985, “inscribed itself deeply and indelibly in the consciousness of the Church”.

Ecumenism in the Life of Christians

22. The ecumenical movement is a grace of God, given by the Father in answer to the prayer of Jesus 35 and the supplication of the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit. 36

While it is carried out within the general mission of the Church to unite humanity in Christ, its own specific field is the restoration of unity among Christians. 37 Those who are baptized in the name of Christ are, by that very fact, called to commit themselves to the search for unity. 38

Baptismal communion tends towards full ecclesial communion. To live our Baptism is to be caught up in Christ’s mission of making all things one…..

… 25. Because ecumenism with all its human and moral requirements is rooted so profoundly in the mysterious working out of the providence of the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, it reaches into the depths of Christian spirituality.

It calls for that “change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians”, that the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council calls “spiritual ecumenism”, and regards as “the soul of the ecumenical movement.” 43 

Those who identify deeply with Christ must identify with his prayer, and especially with his prayer for unity; those who live in the Spirit must let themselves be transformed by the love that, for the sake of unity, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”; 44 those whose lives are marked by repentance will be especially sensitive to the sinfulness of divisions and will pray for forgiveness and conversion.

Those who seek holiness will be able to recognize its fruits also outside the visible boundaries of their own Church.    45…..


In all marriages, the primary concern of the Church is to uphold the strength and stability of the indissoluble marital union and the family life that flows from it. ….

…145. In view, however, 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 develop both for their intrinsic value and for the contribution they can 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.”  140…..

…152. While keeping clearly in mind that doctrinal differences impede full sacramental and canonical communion between the Catholic Church and the various Eastern Churches, in the pastoral care of marriages between Catholics and Eastern Christians, particular attention should be given to the sound and consistent teaching of the faith which is shared by both and to the fact that in the Eastern Churches are to be found “true sacraments, and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy”. 144

If proper pastoral care is given to persons involved in these marriages, the faithful of both communions can be helped to understand how children born of such marriages will be initiated into and spiritually nourished by the sacramental mysteries of Christ.Their formation in authentic Christian doctrine and ways of Christian living would, for the most part, be similar in each Church. Diversity in liturgical life and private devotion can be made to encourage rather than hinder family prayer. …

…160. 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 stated above concerning the admission of a non-Catholic Christian to Eucharistic communion,154as well as those concerning the participation of a Catholic in Eucharistic communion in another Church,155 must be observed.


Implications For Interchurch Families

Interchurch Families live a life that is exceptional.

Does not our lived experience of being actively engaged in being and creating truly interchurch families create a situation that is exceptional?

                                         ~M.J. Glauber    

IMG_3207_2 Japanese Bridge cropped to HD


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