Bishop Brian Farrell addressing the Global Christian Forum in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo: Vatican News

Christians from different churches are much closer today moving towards a situation of trust and confidence and complete openness in their ecumenical dialogues, said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

In an interview with Sister Bernadette Reis, the Bishop was looking at some of the differences that characterise ecumenical dialogue, 60 years after the foundation of the Pontifical Council.

He said ecumenical dialogue and constant contacts have allowed Christians “to discover that we are much closer than the social images that we had made of each other.”

“First of all, there is a sense of how much we actually have in common, because for centuries the churches rivalled each other by insisting on their differences,” he said.

Pope Saint John XXIII’s idea of establishing an ecumenical office in the Vatican, “was certainly a novelty, a revolution at the time, and now it has become a reality. And we are constantly working for the restoration of the unity of Christ’s Church,” he said.


Another important difference is “the fact that, from conflict and rivalry, we have moved to a situation of trust and confidence and complete openness in our ecumenical dialogues,” he added.

This change, for which we must be truly grateful, “comes from recognising and engaging with our brothers and sisters in the other churches.”

Touching on some of the ecumenical challenges facing the Church today, Bishop Farrell said “The great challenge is, first of all, to make known the whole ecumenical goal of the Church.” Ecumenism cannot be the concern only of “an elite group of experts”. Instead, “the unity of the Church is all about the whole people of God.”

He added that the anniversary of the birth of the Pontifical Council dedicated to ecumenism “is a good opportunity for all of us to recognise what’s [been] done, and to examine what we need to do now.”

With Pope Francis, Bishop Farrell recognised the “healthy impatience” of those who feel that we can and should do more to work for Christian Unity. “One of the things that we need to do more is not to be content with the way we are,” he said adding, “this is a very human temptation.”

It is also important, “that we actually learn the lesson […] that the Lord has been teaching the ecumenical movement, and in particular through the ministry of Pope Francis,” namely, “that we need to live as if we have discovered unity.”

By living out the imperfect communion that we already share, “we can have the framework and the context to solve the very difficult questions that we still have to resolve.”

Bishop Farrell acknowledged that there is “still a great deal of study and work and prayer to do before we reach a full understanding of our unity.”

However, he added, “we can’t stop the present moment. We are all confronted by a world that shows us that if we don’t stand together, we won’t be able to serve.” Vatican News