Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fr. William Henn on Pope Francis and Ecumenism

Fr. William Henn, O.F.M.Cap., has been one of the Catholic Church's leading ecumenical theologians since the 1987 publication of his dissertation on The Hierarchy of Truths According to Yves Congar. Currently serving as the Robert Bellarmine Professor of Ecclesiology and Ecumenism at Gregorian University in Rome and consultant to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Henn represents the Catholic Church as a member of the Standing Commission of the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order and has served on the Catholic delegations to international bilateral dialogues with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, representatives of Pentecostal churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the Mennonite World Conference, and the second phase of conversations with the Baptist World Alliance. I had the privilege of serving as a member of the Baptist-Catholic joint commission with Fr. Henn, for which we both presented papers on the relationship between Scripture and tradition in the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum and co-drafted a preliminary version of the section on "The Authority of Christ in Scripture and Tradition" in The Word of God in the Life of the Church: A Report of International Conversations between The Catholic Church and the Baptist World Alliance 2006-2010.

A month after the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis last year, Fr. Henn granted an interview to the National Catholic Reporter offering his perspectives on the ecumenical implications of the beginning of Pope Francis' papacy. I discovered it only today, but it's such an insightful article, with observations that hold true a year-and-a-half later, that I thought it worth calling to the attention of readers of Ecclesial Theology now.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of John L. Allen, Jr.'s interview article:

Rome – For years, experts on ecumenism have said that the main stumbling block to putting the divided Christian family back together again isn’t so much the papacy, but a certain overly monarchical model of it. If we could find new ways of exercising primacy, they prophesied, unity might move a massive step closer to reality.

One veteran expert believes those “new ways” may have arrived with Pope Francis, predicting that this pontiff will prove a “boon” to ecumenism.

“He’s bringing to life what Vatican II added about the role of the papacy being understood from within the college of bishops and the communion of churches,” said Capuchin Fr. William Henn of Rome’s Gregorian University....(read the full article at National Catholic Reporter)

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