“Ecumenical Dialogue with other Christian Churches,” Pedro Arrupe (1971)

In September 1971, Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuits’ superior general, spoke before a group representing different Christian churches. The event took place at the Cardinal Bea Institute on Ecumenism at Manila’s Loyola School of Theology.  In the remarks below, Arrupe notes a number of examples of “real collaboration between the Catholics and the Christian Churches,” observing those developments are evidence that there is “something moving the world.” Arrupe refers to the “Decree of Ecumenism” He trusts that the movement comes from the Holy Spirit and urges his audience not to prevent it. “The world is Christ’s, today more than ever before,” Arrupe claims. “And we have to put our efforts together in order spread the knowledge and love of Christ.” that emerged from “our general chapter in 1965,” to which he means the 26th decree promulgated by the 31st General Congregation.

For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.



1. Jesuits trying to understand non-Catholics

I don’t think it is necessary to explain how very happy I am to have this occasion to meet with some of the representatives of the Christian Churches here in the Philippines. As you know, we, in the Society of Jesus, are trying to foster in our communities, particularly among our theologians, this sense of unity and ecumenism based on the charity of Christ and mutual personal understanding.


In this regard, the reputation of the Jesuits is not so good. We are supposed to have been founded to fight Protestantism. But that is not true; not even at the beginning. It is not true now.


Since Vatican II, we Catholics have been trying to promote this spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation. We have so many things in common, especially if you think of the possibilities of working for the poor in the developing countries, bringing to the people a sense of justice and charity. We could pool our efforts, our ideas, our resources—personal or financial—in order to accomplish much in a broad sense. Also, this would avoid, especially in the mission countries, the scandal of “division among Christians.” I think this negative aspect should be taken seriously. If the people see that, in spite of some differences, we can work together in charity and mutual understanding, this would be a way of evangelization. That is why in the Society of Jesus we are trying to develop this spirit.


2. Cardinal Bea and Ecumenism

One of the personalities, I should say, who contributed enormously to the spirit of ecumenism during the Second Vatican Council was our dear Cardinal Bea, after whom this Institute is named. He was a Jesuit. He was Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. When he was 76 years old, he was made a Cardinal. Everyone thought that it was time for him to retire and that his days were numbered. He was very well but this rejuvenated him. He became a young man, full of life and spirit, and he lived for another ten fruitful years.


He was a leading Scripture scholar, but today few remember him as such. Everyone remembers him as the pioneer of ecumenism. Many think of him as the architect of the Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II.


3. Jesuits gradually turn to Ecumenism

In our general chapter in 1965—this is a meeting of representatives of Jesuits in the whole world—in which I was elected General, we came out with a Decree on Ecumenism. In this decree the Society of Jesus took a positive stand in developing the ecumenical spirit through the Society of Jesus and the people who work with us.


Unfortunately, as in everything else that requires a change of mental attitudes, we have to admit with all humility, that the application of this decree was not as fast and as effective as it should have been. But this does not mean opposition. It’s rather some kind of inertia. You see, some people have set mental attitudes, and it is very difficult, especially for older persons, to change. But this is not a conscious opposition. The change will come in time.


4. Ecumenical Social Action

You might like to know what the Society of Jesus is doing in particular in this field. We are not only trying to foster the spirit, but to be genuinely involved in ecumenical activities. A very significant example for me would be SODEPAX. As you know, SODEPAX is a collaboration between the World Council of Churches and the Catholics in development work.


I was having lunch with Carson Blake, the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches. We were talking about getting involved in common ecumenical action. We do have points that separate us, but we have many more things in common. I suggested social work. We have such tremendous problems of injustice in the world.


We became very enthusiastic about the whole idea and we decided to start something along this line. The first thing we did was to have Father George Dunne, a Jesuit from California, take care of the preparations for the Beirut Conference on World Cooperation for Development. It was a success! That gave a tremendous boost to the work of SODEPAX.


5. Ecumenical Theology

In the United States we are trying to build up ecumenism in the “center of concern.” I was there last May visiting our different scholasticates. That is what we call our seminaries, where our theologians are in training. It was a brand new experience for me.


Until recently, we had our seminaries far out in the country. But we thought today, forming our young men in the modern way, we had better put them in contact with the reality of life. And so we put our theologates where they could see the challenge of the modern world, in the middle of the cities which would be their theatre of activities.


In the United States, these theologates or seminaries are in the middle of the great secular universities. We have Weston College at Harvard University; Woodstock College, at Columbia University; Bellarmine College, at Chicago University; Alma College at Berkeley; and St Mary’s at St Louis University.


I was greatly surprised at the development of this ecumenical spirit. In the beginning we were rather hesitant about putting our young men in the secular universities or in the cities. We were also worried about how we would develop our relations with the other Christian Churches. But my experiences have been very inspiring. I was received by the Protestant faculties and communities with such warmth! Really, I was astonished!


There is real collaboration between the Catholics and the Christian Churches. For example, at Chicago University there is a library of 70,000 volumes for the Jesuits. On the other wing of the building is another library of 60,000 volumes for Protestants. All use both without any difficulty.


The same thing in teaching. In the Hebrew courses Exegesis and so forth, there is complete collaboration among the professors. Strangely enough, in Berkeley, the students for the Protestant ministry are coming to our Exegesis lectures. Therefore, now the Jesuits are contributing to the training of Protestant pastors. That would have been incredible two years ago. But now, wonderful to say, there is a real cordial collaboration. There is also collaboration with the Orthodox Church. I have just spent three days in Moscow and two days in Leningrad. Again, such warm hospitality! Incredible. Really incredible.


6. The Moving Spirit

So you see, there is something moving the world. It must be the Holy Spirit. We simply have to let the Holy Spirit move us and put no obstacles. Where are we going? Probably nobody knows. But we are going; and as long as we go under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be all right. Therefore, I think we have to be objectively optimistic in this regard, and sincerely try to foster the ecumenical spirit. You know better than I; I’m not trying to teach you something new. The world is Christ’s, today more than ever before. And we have to put our efforts together in order spread the knowledge and love of Christ.


We can do this together in social action, works of charity, and even in education -in our institutions of learning, research … so many things! And therefore, I think you will understand the joy we have today in having this personal contact with you, and also to thank you for your collaboration. I have heard from Father Achutegui and the other Jesuits about the cordial relations we have here in the Philippines. And I would like to promise you that we are always ready to collaborate with you as far as we can. And we could be of help in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask the Fathers here. Perhaps you have specific questions you may want to ask. I myself would like to ask you some questions.




Original Source:

Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses— III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “Ecumenical Dialogue with other Christian Churches,” pg. 215–219.

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