This Vatican office, originally named the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, was established to assist the drafting committees of the Second Vatican Council. Following the Council, Pope Paul VI made it a permanent dicastery of the Roman Curia. With Pope John Paul II‘s apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus it was elevated to a Pontifical Council in 1988. In 2022, Pope Francis‘ major reform of the Curia resulted in a name change to Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium establishes that “it is the responsibility of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity to apply appropriate initiatives and activities to the ecumenical commitment, both within the Catholic Church and in relations with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to restore unity among Christians” (art.142).
In particular, it is the task of the Dicastery to “implement the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the post‒conciliar Magisterium concerning ecumenism”, to assume responsibility for “the correct interpretation and faithful application of ecumenical principles”, to encourage “Catholic meetings and events, both national and international, to promote Christian unity”, and to coordinate “the ecumenical initiatives of the other curial institutions” (art.143).
The Dicastery “maintains relations with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities”, promoting “theological dialogue and talks to foster unity with them”, as well as “ecumenical initiatives on a spiritual, pastoral and cultural level” (art.144).
Also, “in order to advance the relationship between Catholics and Jews, a Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism is established at the Dicastery” (art.146).
The Dicastery exercises a double role. First of all, it is entrusted with the promotion, within the Catholic Church, of an authentic ecumenical spirit according to the conciliar decree Unitatis redintegratio; it was for this purpose that an Ecumenical Directory was published in 1967-1970 and a revised edition issued in 1993 entitled Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism. The Dicastery carries out this task in liaison with the various departments of the Roman Curia, whose competence includes areas that can contribute similarly to the task of dialogue of the Catholic Church and should be put to the service of its relationships with all the Churches and ecclesial Communities.
At the same time, the Dicastery also aims to develop dialogue and collaboration with the other Churches and World Communions. Since its creation, it has also established a cordial cooperation with the World Council of Churches (WCC), whose headquarters are in Geneva. From 1968, twelve Catholic theologians have been members of the ‘Faith and Order’ Commission, the theological department of the WCC.
Similarly, it is the task of the Dicastery to name Catholic observers at various ecumenical gatherings and in its turn to invite observers or ‘fraternal delegates’ of other Churches or ecclesial Communities to major events of the Catholic Church.
Letters, addresses, & greetings
Responses to Agreed Statements
Communiqués & Press Releases