Collaboration between RCC and WCC / Dr. Paulos Gregorios


Collaboration between RCC and WCC / Dr. Paulos Gregorios

Collaboration between RCC and WCC: Some Random Comments 

(Metropolitan of Delhi) 

My information is limited. Twelve years of experience on the 
Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the 
World Council of Churches, some inside knowledge of both consti- 
tuencies acquired in the last 20 years, and partial acquaintance with 
the literature — this is all I have to go on to make some comments 
on R. C. C. — W. C. C. relations today and tomorrow. 

I. Differences 

There are the obviously seen differences: 

(a) The RCC is a Church, the WCC is a fellowship of Churches, 
with no body authorized to act on behalf of all of them. 

(b) The Vatican is a State, and has a special place in the Com- 
munity of Nations. The W. C. C. and its agencies are at best 
Non-Governmental Organizations without any official relation 
to individual states, but accredited to the ECOSOC of the 
U. N. 

(c) The decision-making process reflects the view of the Two-third 
world more in the W. C. C. than in the RCC. The Holy 
office in Rome is less advanced than the W. C. C. in ensuring 
such representation and participation. 

(d) The laity and especially women and youth have a larger role 
in the W. C. C.’s decision-making and leadership than in the 

(e) The RCC is an institution with centuries of tradition, while 
the W. C. C. is young, only a few decades old. 

(f) The decisions of the RCC can be implemented by the Church 
more efficiently and readily than the decisions of the WCC by 
its member Churches. 


(g) The Roman Catholic ethical and political decisions are based 
on a more clearly articulated conceptual system and princi- 
ples; the W. C. C. tends to be more pragmatic and is shy 
about working out principles and theoretical bases for its 
policy and action. 

II. Fellowship and Membership 

Beyond these obvious differences, there is considerable uncer- 
tainty as to the role and purpose of the Joint Working Group. Is the 
pattern of future relationship between the W. C. C. and R. C. C. 
now recognized as some form of membership for the RCC in a 
common body where the member Churches of the WCC are also 
members? If this pattern is formally and officially recognized by 
both sides, then the function of the Joint Working Group would be 
clearer, i. e. 

(a) building up better relationships between the WCC member 
Churches and the RCC, in terms of Christian fellowship, 
dialogue and mutual cooperation; 

and (b) preparing the way for arriving at membership in a common 

As far as the WCC is concerned, while there may be psycholo- 
gical reasons why some Churches may not welcome membership in a 
common body with the RCC, the WCC itself is committed to the 
position that it would admit into its membership any Church that 
accepts the basis, has the necessary autonomy and size. None of 
these conditions are in principle difficult for the RCC to fulfill, but 
until the RCC applies for membership in the WCC, the WCC cannot 
in principle consider the question of membership. This is also the 
reason why there is no need for a joint statement on the question of 
membership; but a declaration by the RCC indicating not necessarily 
membership in the WCC, but the idea of a structured fellowship in 
which the RCC would accept common membership with other 
Churches would be helpful, I believe. 

III. Practical Collaboration 

As for collaboration possibilities, there are a number of specific 
areas on which some collaboration can be projected. 

(a) on a joint effort for nuclear disarmament; 

(b) some common statement of agreements and disagreements on 
the possibilities for biological manipulation of life and the 
moral issues raised by it; 

(c) some common study on the causes of poverty and injustice in 
the world, and on practical means of removing the causes, 
and the Churches’ role in relation to these means; 

(d) some theological study on the role of the Church in the 
struggle for justice and dignity for the whole of humanity, 
and for directions and orientations for Christian action for 
social change; including the question of the relation between 
compassionate services to the sick and the poor, organized 
struggle for social and structural change, and pioneering in 
new pattern of common life. This will also include an 
attempt to delineate the basic elements of human nature 
( humanum ) which should now receive priority attention; 

(e) some common compaigning for diverting the use of science 
and technology from war and profit to peace, economic 
liberation and cultural creativity; 

(f) some common study about how the fellowship of rich and 
poor Churches can become a two-way process of mutual help, 
encouragement and co-operation with human and material as 
well as spiritual resources. 

These are in addition to ongoing theological work in the frame- 
work of Faith and Order. 

In the present circumstances, the above seems to be an ambi- 
tious enough starting point.