By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor
This week marks a trio of major milestones in the Catholic church.
The month-long 13th General Assembly of the World Synod of Bishops opened on Sunday, Oct. 7, in Rome and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz is one of just seven U.S. bishops participating.
Today, Oct. 11, marks both the beginning of a Year of Faith — meant to draw Catholics to prayer and study about their faith — and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
That council was the subject of an ecumenical prayer service conducted last Thursday, Oct. 4, at Bellarmine University. An intimate crowd of about 65 people gathered in Our Lady of the Woods Chapel to commemorate the council that produced the Vatican’s decree on ecumenism, “Unitatis Redintegratio” (Restoration of Unity). The document was issued Nov. 21, 1964, and called all of the faithful to work toward Christian unity.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who took part in the Bellarmine service on the eve of his departure for the Vatican, noted as he welcomed the participants, “the closer you and I come to Christ, the closer we come together.”
He was joined in the celebration by representatives of several other Christian communities, including Bishop Terry Allen White of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky; the Rev. Rebecca S. Curry, the United Methodist District Superintendant and Assistant to the Bishop; Father Gregory Wingenbach, a retired priest of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of North America; the Rev. Lucinda Laird of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church; the Rev. Cynthia Crabtree of Highland Presbyterian Church and Pastor Rudy Mueller of the Indiana/Kentucky Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
During the service, the archbishop read the Gospel and then offered a reflection on ecumenism.
“Over the last 50 years, through all the ups and downs and turns in the road that invariably human beings take when they try a new enterprise … we have found that there have been four clear paths to our efforts of ecumenism,” he said.
“The first path, of course, is friendship in the Lord Jesus based on mutual respect. Secondly, and a very beautiful one that we do tonight, is our desire for prayer,” he said. “We cannot at this point fully share in our prayer of the Eucharist. But we can pray, and in a prayer that calls for inner conversion.
“Our prayer … in which we deeply ask the Holy Spirit to join us more closely to Jesus our savior and so in turn to one another, is the occasion for our gathering tonight,” he said. “There are two other paths that we embrace. We embrace the path of seeking common service to humanity. The fourth way is the path of civility when we disagree.”
In an interview after the prayer service, Archbishop Kurtz said it was an honor to have people of different faiths recognize the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.
“We ought to be thrilled to have so many (representatives) from so many faith communities of the Louisville area,” he said.
During interviews following the service, several participants said the council influenced faith communities outside the Catholic church.
Orthodox Father Wingenbach said that prior to the Second Vatican Council, ecumenism happened “here and there” in small ways. Vatican II brought ecumenism to the forefront, he said.
“It opened up the ability and desire of church communities to lay aside their barriers to sit down and dialogue and engage in service programs,” said Father Wingenbach. “We hope, we pray that we will be one, that there will be a reunion of the orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.”
Episcopal Bishop Terry Allen White and the other Episcopal representatives at the service, said they, too, hope that one day the churches will find unity.
The bishop noted that Vatican II “had a big influence on the liturgy in many, many traditions” and said that it led to liturgical renewal in communities everywhere.
He also noted that people in the Episcopal church “like to feel like we helped with some” of Vatican II’s work. For instance, he said, the Episcopal church began using the language of the people in the liturgy centuries before and already had emphasized the role of the laity.
The Rev. Laird of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, added, “I’m endlessly hopeful on the ecumenical front.” She also noted that the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on baptism prompted a renewal of the sacrament in the Episcopal tradition. Episcopal Rev. Amy Coultas said she has the opportunity to work ecumenically at the University of Louisville’s Interfaith Center. There, she collaborates with people of different faiths, including Sarah Fellows and Father Lou Meiman, who conduct the school’s Catholic Campus Ministry.
Bellarmine plans to continue its celebration of the Second Vatican Council during the next three years with a series of lectures. The lectures will be offered twice a year and will focus on Vatican II documents in the order they were promulgated. The lectures are free and open to the public.
The first lecture will focus on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” which was issued on Dec. 4, 1963. It will be discussed by Dr. Timothy O’Malley from the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy on Jan. 29, 2013, at Hilary’s in Horrigan Hall on the Bellarmine campus, 2001 Newburg Road.