Ecumenism

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La Pira had devoted deep thought to the issue of ecumenism well before the Vatican Council II. His reflections followed the two distinct lines of thought, later also followed by the Council: dialogue among the different religions and dialogue within the Christian Churches and communities.

The Council Fathers resolved to dedicate two different documents to dialogue: the Nostra Aetate declaration (on relations with non-Christians), and the Unitatis Redintegratio decree (on the Christian Churches and communities).

From 1959 onwards, La Pira wrote to the heads of the non-Catholic Churches all over the world. These letters give a clear idea of his model of ecumenism, chosen from the many models of unity in pre-Council Catholic theology. La Pira’s approach was one of prayer, and this was the “method” later chosen by the Council.

His conversations on the theme of the Council itself with the Patriarch and Metropolitan of Moscow, Patriarch Athenagoras, (who entrusted La Pira with an important message for Pope John XXIII), the Roman Catholic and separate Patriarchs of Cairo, Alexandria, Jerusalem and the Greek orthodox Church of Rhodes took on a special significance.

His whole vision of the Council was ecumenical – the unity of the Churches and the unity of the world ; see also Church and Council, and this was his approach to reading Mater et Magistra .

La Pira was also an important figure in fostering rapprochement with the worlds of Judaism and Islam and in establishing dialogue with them. He established the Jewish/Christian friendship organisation in the 1950s and, together with Louis Massignon, promoted dialogue with Islam.