Collaboration between RCC and WCC: Some Random Comments
PAULOS MAR GREGORIOS
(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.
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
(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.