Sale Diocese Ecumenical Commission
VISION AND MISSION
It was the prayer of Jesus for Christians everywhere “that they all be one.” (Jn 17:21)
His vision is ours, and his prayer inspires our mission, which is to foster wherever possible the unity of Christians.
The Ecumenical Commission is establish according to the directory for the Diocese of Sale to promote ecumenical relations. It does so by:
- Promoting friendliness and charity between Catholics and other Christians with whom full ecclesial communion does not yet exist – and initiating and guiding conversations and consultations with them
- Encouraging parishes to participate in ecumenical initiatives on their own level
- Offering help and encouragement by such means as workshops and seminars for ecumenical formation of both clergy and laity
- Promoting, in collaboration with other diocesan bodies and with other Christians, joint witness to Christian faith
- Proposing experts to undertake dialogue on the diocesan level with other Churches and ecclesial Communities
- Putting into practice the decisions of the bishop for implementing the teaching and directives of the Second Vatican Council on ecumenism, as well as those of the post Conciliar documents emanating from the Holy See, Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches and Episcopal Conferences
- Maintaining relations with the national Bishops’ Conference Advisory Committee on ecumenism and the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity
- Fostering spiritual ecumenism according to the principles given in the Conciliar Decree on Ecumenism and in other sections of this Directory about public and private prayer for the unity of Christians
Indicative of ecumenical progress in our diocesan region, Catholics were prominent in marking the sesquicentenary of Martin Luther’s October 1517 challenge to church abuses, in 2017. One of our larger parishes hosted an inter-church liturgical celebration led by the parish priest, the senior Lutheran minister in the region and attended by an Anglican Bishop. Catholics led or were included in related events around the diocese.
In 2018 a major ecumenical initiative was co-hosted by the Anglican and Catholic Bishops in Gippsland, the Advent Conversation presented a study of Luke, led by Rev Dorothy Lee, Frank Woods Research Professor in New Testament at Trinity College and Fr Frank Moloney, Senior Professorial Fellow at the Catholic Theological College.
The Sale Diocese Ecumenical Commission is currently undergoing restructuring while the future of Ecumenical and Inter-religious dialogue in our diocese is discerned. The Chairman Fr Peter Bickley and Secretary of the Commission, Deacon Mark Kelly remain the Diocesan delegates on the Victorian Council of Churches.
Following his appointment by Bishop Coffey as the Sale Diocese Officer for Ecumenism, Fr. Peter Bickley together with Sr. Maureen O’Kelly consulted other Victorian dioceses about ecumenism. On the basis of these inquiries, the first ecumenical meeting for the Sale diocese was held in March 1999. The body was termed an Ecumenical Committee, and various members of the archdiocese and other ecumenical groups were invited to speak at committee meetings. In June 1999 parishes were invited to send contact persons to a meeting to be held on 4th July. Bishop Coffey addressed the meeting which became formally termed the Ecumenical Committee. In May 2001, the Ecumenical Committee became an Ecumenical Council serviced by an executive group called the Ecumenical Commission.
The Ecumenical Council was made up of people representing ecumenical activity at parish level. Parishes represented on the Council were Berwick, Cranbourne and Drouin/Warragul from the West; Churchill, Heyfield/Cowwarr, Newborough and Traralgon from Central; Bairnsdale, Maffra, and Orbost from the East; Leongatha and Yarram/ Foster from the South. The Council recognized the need to foster participation by other parishes and held workshops to this end. The first workshop was held at Berwick in July 2001. Other workshops were held at Bairnsdale in July 2001 and in the Latrobe Valley in July 2004.
It was apparent that there had been ecumenical initiatives at a parish level well before formalisation of ecumenism at the diocesan level. Indeed, Val Wishart of Berwick has been recently recognized as a pioneer of the ecumenical movement within the Sale diocese.
Having secured the agreement of the Council of Priests, the diocese made formal application to join the Victorian Council of Churches (VCC) in November 2002. The Sale diocese was accepted as a member of the VCC in March 2003. Subsequently, members of the Ecumenical Council were involved in planning the VCC Country Conference which was held at Gippsland Grammar in November 2003.
The tyranny of distance presented difficulties for parish representatives attending Council meetings, hence ecumenical activity has become the responsibility of a smaller group termed the Ecumenical Commission.