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This article was published in the Summer 1997 issue of The Journal.

Personal reflections 

From a report of a meeting of interchurch families addressed by Cardinal Basil Hume

It seems to me that the session left us with two specific challenges. 

1 Personal reflections 
It seems to me that the session left us with two specific challenges. Catholic faith in the eucharist The spiritual need recognised by the Directory is the need of the married couple to share communion. The main focus of the Cardinal's interest was one of the conditions which must be met by an individual who seeks admission to communion in the Roman Catholic Church, once such need is recognised as genuine. The Cardinal particularly drew our attention to the question of eucharistic belief, and to the Catholic understanding that eucharistic faith implies faith in the church which celebrates the eucharist - and the Roman Catholic Church is the "Petrine Church" as he expressed it. Those baptised Christians who belong to other churches and ecclesial communities in particular need of admission to the eucharist are asked to "manifest Catholic faith in the eucharist". This is usually taken to mean belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the eucharist. But in the Catholic perspective it means more than this. It is also an affirmation of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the church which celebrates the eucharist - in this case the Roman Catholic Church. 

Clearly the baptised person who asks for admission cannot affirm his or her faith in the Roman Catholic Church in any exclusive way, since he/she is and remains an Anglican or Free Church Christian. But there must be a real desire for communion with the Roman Catholic Church, as it exists concretely at the present time, as well as in its potential for future development. This is asking for something more than a desire for unity with a spouse - though the motivation may well start there. It means also embracing the ecclesial communion of the spouse. I do not think that this is to make acceptance of the Pope's position in the Roman Catholic Church, as it may be represented at this or that specific time in history, a criterion for admission to communion (although some who listened to the Cardinal may have taken what he said in this way and therefore have been very disturbed by it). Indeed it cannot mean this, since members of the Eastern Churches, with whom "there is still a very close communion in matters of faith" (but not agreement about the papacy!) are not asked for any affirmation of eucharistic faith if they are in need of admission to the eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church; the conditions are simply that they ask "of their own free will and are properly disposed" (122, 125). Nor can it mean that more is asked of the individual who seeks admission than is required of a Catholic. 

However, it seems to me that it does mean an acceptance of the significance of the role of the Bishop of Rome as servant and symbol of the unity of the church on the world level and a willingness to explore this significance further, as indeed all Christians have been invited to do in Ut Unum Sint. This is to accept a duty, as well as to ask a privilege. 

It is not easy to formulate what this means. But there is an underlying requirement here which interchurch families can perhaps understand out of their own experience of married life. 

In our commitment to one another we accept and love our partners as they are, with all their faults and failings as well as all the good things about them which we appreciate, with all their potential for growth. I think there is a clue here to the sort of commitment to the Roman Catholic Church which is required of those other Christians who, in their need, ask for admission to communion. If we are asked to love our spouse (our nearest neighbour) as we love ourselves, maybe we are called to love our partner's church in the way we love our own. I think too that this is the sort of love and commitment which many interchurch partners belonging to other churches and ecclesial communities do actually demonstrate in the way in which they participate in the concrete life of the Catholic community of their spouse. In marriage the two partners are mutually committed to one another in a total way. Each embraces everything fundamental to the other. This goes for church-belonging too. Some interchurch partners experience and practise a mutual commitment not only to their partners but also to the churches which have nurtured and continue to nurture them in the one faith in Christ. It is surely this reality which has made it possible for the Roman Catholic Church to identify mixed marriages between baptised Christians as a possible situation of need for eucharistic sharing (the only specific identification of need, besides that of danger of death, which has yet been made at world level in application of the 1983 Code of Canon Law). 

It is not easy to spell out what "to demonstrate Catholic faith in the eucharist" actually means. The French bishops, with specific reference to members of the Reformed Churches seeking admission to communion, asked for "an unambiguous faith in the sacrificial dimension of the memorial, in the Real Presence and in the relationship between eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion" (as well as "an active commitment in the service of the unity which God wills"). There is thus a clear reminder in the conditions they laid down of the eucharist/church relationship, without a specific reference to any particular element in the life of the church (Note sur l'hospitalite eucharistique, 1983). Certainly if the issue of the authority of the papacy as centrally exercised in the limits of the present moment of history were to be used as a test of Catholic faith in the eucharist, this would raise as many questions as another which (alas) is sometimes put to Christians seeking admission to the eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church as a test: "Do you believe in transsubstantiation ?". The Council of Trent never insisted that transsubstantiation was the only way to describe Christ's presence in the eucharist. 

2 Practicalities 
The second challenge is a difficult one in practical terms: how can the deeply felt needs of certain particular couples be met without obscuring the witness of the Roman Catholic Church to the inseparable link between eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion? This is a real problem in a country like England where there are so many "mixed marriages" and a great fear of "opening the floodgates". We should not minimise the difficulty. But, if a genuine spiritual need is identified, once we move to the level of "practicalities" (and this is the word the Cardinal used) a way must surely be found. 

We insist and we insist and we insist Couples have to go on laying the deep needs they before our pastors. If we feel a real spiritual need, this is our duty to our marriages and to our families, and we can never give up (however hard it is to keep going, and however much we may be tempted to do so). Certainly unity in the Spirit is the fundamental unity which binds us together. But because we are creatures of flesh and blood we need the signs which assure us of that unity and at the same time help us to grow in unity. 

Certainly interchurch families can, and many do, value very highly the receiving of a blessing, as a sign of our desire for fuller unity. But after many years this can sometimes be experienced as a rejection a rejection of us as a couple rather than as a welcome. So interchurch families have to go on saying to their Catholic bishops and communities: "Please understand that in some cases a sacramental is not enough. We need more. It is a sacrament which binds us in our marriage, and we continually need the sacrament of the eucharist to sustain, build up and deepen the unity of our marriage and family life." 

That is why we too have to go on insisting and insisting and insisting …

Ruth Reardon

This article was published in the Summer 1997 issue of the Journal.

Cardinal Basil Hume talks to Interchurch Families

"We insisted and we insisted and we insisted, and we won in the end. " 

Cardinal Hume was asked what experience of an ecumenical nature had moved him most profoundly. One of his examples was the tremendous applause which greeted Pope John Paul II in the Anglican cathedral at Liverpool in 1982. "I have never heard such a prayer for Christian unity as was revealed in that clapping when the Pope walked up the cathedral with David Sheppard" (Anglican Bishop of Liverpool). It was Anglican and Free Church applause, he noted; the Catholics were at the other cathedral ... 

He explained that it had not been easy to persuade those in Rome responsible for organising the papal visit that the Pope should go the Anglican cathedral as well as to the Catholic cathedral in Liverpool. But he will have been to the Anglican cathedral at Canterbury, they argued - that will be enough to show his ecumenical commitment. Clearly they didn't understand England, said the Cardinal; Canterbury is not Liverpool. But, "We insisted and we insisted and we insisted, and we won in the end." 

Eucharist and Church 

The Cardinal was addressing the Association of Interchurch Families at its annual Heythrop (London) meeting on 15th February 1997. He chose to tackle head on the subject of what he called "intercommunion". "I know this question touches you at a level which is very important for all of you", he said. He spoke with particular reference to the section on "Sharing Sacramental Life with Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities" in the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism issued from Rome in 1993. This Directory instructs Bishops' Conferences to apply the norms which it gives for sacramental sharing. The Bishops of England and Wales have decided not just to repeat the norms, but to give the theological context so that the norms are seen to flow out of this context. The Cardinal said that when he distributes Holy Communion his words are: "The Body of Christ". The response "Amen" is an affirmation of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament, and also in the ecclesial body in which the celebration is taking place. "The Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church." 

The Cardinal stressed almost exclusively the first basic principle which governs sacramental sharing: the eucharist is the sign of unity in faith, worship and community life, and source of the unity of the Christian community so that eucharistic communion is inseparably linked to full ecclesial communion and its visible expression. "I cannot separate the eucharist from the Church", said the Cardinal. Catholic faith in the eucharist therefore implies faith in the Church which celebrates the eucharist. There is pain, when we cannot share the eucharist, of course - but we need to remember that spiritual communion is very important: we can receive all the grace the sacraments give without actually receiving them. ("Is this an argument for co-habitation rather than marriage?" asked someone - and the Cardinal joined in the laughter.) 

When asked what support interchurch families might expect, the Cardinal spoke of the value of receiving a blessing at the time of communion. "I'm very moved, he said, "when people come for a blessing; it speaks volumes about the desire for unity and is a sign that we don't want separation. It is a sacramental - not a sacrament - but it is not without significance." 

After listening to members of interchurch families briefly laying before him their own situations in a very personal way, the Cardinal also spoke very personally about his own deep feelings that intercommunion is negative - "a counter-sign to unity" he called it. "I have to be true to my own integrity. The most agonising thing for me is disunity in faith." How can we come together and share in the eucharist and yet go away disagreeing on all the things underlying it? 

We do not ask for "intercommunion"

The Cardinal was reminded that interchurch families are not asking for "intercommunion", but for admission to communion in certain cases. He was reminded of the second basic principle which according to the 1993 Directory governs sacramental sharing: that by baptism members of other churches and ecclesial communities are brought into an imperfect but real communion with the Catholic Church. This communion is deepened where couples not only share baptism but the sacrament of marriage. What is happening is that some couples are asking for admission to communion for the other baptised partner on the basis of their deep and pressing need to share the eucharist to build up and strengthen their marriage and family life in Christ. 

"I do see this point," said the Cardinal, "you are in a unique situation through the sacrament of matrimony - but then there are all the practicalities ... You here are all committed people, but if we say it's possible for you ..." 

We were very grateful to the Cardinal for coming to talk with us and for sharing his own deeply-held convictions. We were grateful for the way he led us in prayer into the Lenten experience of the Cross, helping us to feel that he, too, shared our pain - perhaps also that we shared something of his. 

Personal reflections 

It seems to me that the session left us with two specific challenges. 

1 Catholic faith in the eucharist 

The spiritual need recognised by the Directory is the need of the married couple to share communion. The main focus of the Cardinal's interest was one of the conditions which must be met by an individual who seeks admission to communion in the Roman Catholic Church, once such need is recognised as genuine. The Cardinal particularly drew our attention to the question of eucharistic belief, and to the Catholic understanding that eucharistic faith implies faith in the church which celebrates the eucharist - and the Roman Catholic Church is the "Petrine Church" as he expressed it. Those baptised Christians who belong to other churches and ecclesial communities in particular need of admission to the eucharist are asked to "manifest Catholic faith in the eucharist". This is usually taken to mean belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the eucharist. But in the Catholic perspective it means more than this. It is also an affirmation of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the church which celebrates the eucharist - in this case the Roman Catholic Church. 

Clearly the baptised person who asks for admission cannot affirm his or her faith in the Roman Catholic Church in any exclusive way, since he/she is and remains an Anglican or Free Church Christian. But there must be a real desire for communion with the Roman Catholic Church, as it exists concretely at the present time, as well as in its potential for future development. This is asking for something more than a desire for unity with a spouse - though the motivation may well start there. It means also embracing the ecelesial communion of the spouse. I do not think that this is to make acceptance of the Pope's position in the Roman Catholic Church, as it may be represented at this or that specific time in history, a criterion for admission to communion (although some who listened to the Cardinal may have taken what he said in this way and therefore have been very disturbed by it). Indeed it cannot mean this, since members of the Eastern Churches, with whom "there is still a very close communion in matters of faith" (but not agreement about the papacy!) are not asked for any affirmation of eucharistic faith if they are in need of admission to the eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church; the conditions are simply that they ask "of their own free will and are properly disposed" (122, 125). Nor can it mean that more is asked of the individual who seeks admission than is required of a Catholic. 

However, it seems to me that it does mean an acceptance of the significance of the role of the Bishop of Rome as servant and symbol of the unity of the church on the world level and a willingness to explore this significance further, as indeed all Christians have been invited to do in Ut Unum Sint. This is to accept a duty, as well as to ask a privilege. 

It is not easy to formulate what this means. But there is an underlying requirement here which interchurch families can perhaps understand out of their own experience of married life.

In our commitment to one another we accept and love our partners as they are, with all their faults and failings as well as all the good things about them which we appreciate, with all their potential for growth. I think there is a clue here to the sort of commitment to the Roman Catholic Church which is required of those other Christians who, in their need, ask for admission to communion. If we are asked to love our spouse (our nearest neighbour) as we love ourselves, maybe we are called to love our partner's church in the way we love our own. I think too that this is the sort of love and commitment which many interchurch partners belonging to other churches and ecclesial communities do actually demonstrate in the way in which they participate in the concrete life of the Catholic community of their spouse. In marriage the two partners are mutually committed to one another in a total way. Each embraces everything fundamental to the other. This goes for church-belonging too. Some interchurch partners experience and practice a mutual commitment not only to their partners but also to the churches which have nurtured and continue to nurture them in the one faith in Christ. It is surely this reality which has made it possible for the Roman Catholic Church to identify mixed marriages between baptised Christians as a possible situation of need for eucharistic sharing (the only specific identification of need, besides that of danger of death, which has yet been made at world level in application of the 1983 Code of Canon Law). 

It is not easy to spell out what "to demonstrate Catholic faith in the eucharist" actually means. The French bishops, with specific reference to members of the Reformed Churches seeking admission to communion, asked for "an unambiguous faith in the sacrificial dimension of the memorial, in the Real Presence and in the relationship between Eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion" (as well as "an active commitment in the service of the unity which God wills"). There is thus a clear reminder in the conditions they laid down of the eucharist/church relationship, without a specific reference to any particular element in the life of the church (Note sur l'hospitalite'eucharistique, 1983). Certainly if the issue of the authority of the papacy as centrally exercised in the limits of the present moment of history were to be used as a test of Catholic faith in the eucharist, this would raise as many questions as another which (alas) is sometimes put to Christians seeking admission to the eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church as a test: "Do you believe in transsubstantiation?". The Council of Trent never insisted that transsubstantiation was the only way to describe Christ's presence in the eucharist. 

2 Practicalities

The second challenge is a difficult one in practical terms: how can the deeply felt needs of certain particular couples be met without obscuring the witness of the Roman Catholic Church to the inseparable link between eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion? This is a real problem in a country like England where there are so many "mixed marriages" and a great fear of "opening the floodgates". We should not minimisethe difficulty. But, if a genuine spiritual need is identified, once we move to the level of "practicalities" (and this is the word the Cardinal used) a way must surely be found. 

We insist and we insist and we insist 

Couples have to go on laying the deep needs they experience before our pastors. If we feel a real spiritual need, this is our duty to our marriages and to our families, and we can never give up (however hard it is to keep going, and however much we may be tempted to do so). Certainly unity in the Spirit is the fundamental unity which binds us together. But because we are creatures of flesh and blood we need the signs which assure us of that unity and at the same time help us to grow in unity. 

Certainly interchurch families can, and many do, value very highly the receiving of a blessing, as a sign of our desire for fuller unity. But after many years this can sometimes be experienced as a rejection - a rejection of us as a couple -rather than as a welcome. So interchurch families have to go on saying to their Catholic bishops and communities: "Please understand that in some cases a sacramental is not enough. We need more. It is a sacrament which binds us in our marriage, and we continually need the sacrament of the eucharist to sustain, build up and deepen the unity of our marriage and family life." 

That is why we too have to go on insisting and insisting and insisting . 

Ruth Reardon

This article was published in the Summer 1997 issue of The Journal.

Canadian Bishops meet Interchurch Families 

The Association of Interchurch Families in Montreal was asked to make a presentation to the national annual Anglican-Roman Catholic Bishops' Dialogue, a group charged with establishing pastoral guidelines for interchurch families, during their three-day meeting which took place near Montreal in late November 1996. It was an honour that the Association immediately accepted. Three couples represented the Association before fifteen bishops from the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches across Canada. (In 1987 this group produced the document Interchurch Marriages between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Canada.) 

Not having any Anglican members in the Montreal Association, we contacted friends in Manitoba - Ray Temmerman, a Roman Catholic, and his wife Fenella, who is an Anglican. To our great satisfaction, they had a wealth of personal testimonies from other Catholic-Anglican couples, testimonies of complete acceptance in some church communities and terrible rejection in others. 

Living actively in two churches 

The message we brought to the bishops is that some interchurch families are living active lives in two churches and sharing those church lives with their children. We presented the concept of dual registration of baptism, a practice that is very new in Canada. The bishops had a few questions regarding what the future would hold for the children. In which church would they become communicant members? One bishop felt that if the child's baptism is recorded in the Catholic church, then he would consider the child a Catholic. Our experience is that children are welcome and active in both churches, and the concern over their of ficial membership does not affect their contribution to the life of either community. The bishops also asked what would happen when these children themselves get married. Our group has no previous experience of interchurch children growing to adulthood. But what do we know of any child's future? The most that we can do is to raise children in the Christian faith, nurture their young beliefs and love them. If we prepare them as children, we must have confidence that they will make good decisions for themselves when they grow up. 

A change of priest can be devastating

The ninth International Conference of Associations of Interchurch Families, held in Virginia last summer, stated that the most immediate concern for interchurch families is their overwhelming spiritual need to receive communion together, and that this need cries out for a more generous pastoral interpretation of the rules on eucharistic sharing. We brought this to the bishops along with personal experiences from across the country. We reported that in one area an Anglican spouse was welcomed with open arms by the Roman Catholic community, invited to the table, and given opportunities where she could share her gifts in the liturgy. That same couple, after sharing with a community in communion and the life of the church for several years, was devastated when one day a new priest arrived and opened the liturgy with the statement that while all were welcome to be at the liturgy, only those who were Roman Catholics were allowed to receive communion. Such experiences cry out for a more pastoral approach to the situation. 

The bishops expressed their own pain at not being able to share communion with each other. They described how they lived this separation during their annual meetings: that morning one of the Anglican bishops had presided over communion and while the Anglican bishops went forward and received, their Catholic brothers remained seated. The next morning a Catholic bishop would say mass and the Anglicans would remain in their seats. 

One of the Anglican bishops shared the story of his daughters. Both daughters were educated in a Catholic school, and both followed the normal first communion classes with their classmates. The elder received her first communion in the Catholic church, but with the younger came a change of priest and two days before the communion service she was told that she would not be permitted to receive. For a young child to be denied just two days before the celebration, after months of preparation is a very difficult thing to accept. Her pain was deepened by knowing that her sister had been allowed to receive only a couple of years earlier. How do you explain to a child that she was an exemplary student throughout the preparation classes, but she would nevertheless fail to experience first communion with her friends and classmates? How do you explain that she didn't fail: it is the churches that have failed for the last few hundred years? As adults, though we find it hard to accept the scandal of our division, at least we can understand our brokenness. A young child cannot understand our problems. 

The challenge not to go away 

As interchurch families, we meet priests who do not understand, or do not want to understand, our double belonging. The bishops admitted that they have similar problems with some of their own confreres. At all levels of the church there are people who continue to see interchurch families as oddities and problems that, if ignored long enough, will go away. This is perhaps our greatest challenge today. 

Our meeting was, I hope, a blessing for both groups. The bishops got a glimpse of what it is like to live an interchurch life and we met in the bishops partners who will walk with us on our journey towards church unity. It allowed us to add a human dimension to the ecumenical movement. 

Craig Buchanan

This article was published in the Summer 1997 issue of The Journal.

Double Belonging

What it means to us 

"Double belonging" is a term which eas been used by some interchurcb couples and families to describe their lived experience in their marriage and family life. We use it for lack of a better one. In this brief article a Roman Catholic wife from Cornwall explains what "double belonging" has meant for her family. 

For us, double belonging focuses very sharply what it is to be joined by the sacrament of matrimony. Our marriage means that we share each other without reservation, giving to each other our strengths and attractive qualities as well as our faults and weaknesses - conferring on each other an opportunity for growth and liberation because we live in an environment of constant love and commitment. Just as part of us is our extended families, our friends and respective communities, and of course our church families and traditions, so also for each of us the welcome into all of these communities has been a consequence of our union, and an overwhelmingly enriching one: Malcolm has discovered a perspective of the Roman Church which goes beyond the English experience both in terms of geographical and historical diversity to something much more culturally varied and developmental in nature; as for me, I have discovered the joy of a Church much more rooted in my own Cornish and Celtic culture and appreciate greatly its immediacy even in the small communities of this place - the Church of England is much more locally present. I have also been able to develop my relationship with Our Lady more fully in sharing attitudes which are different from the piety in which I was brought up. 

But what level of belonging do we each acquire by virtue of our marriage? Malcolm is still an Anglican and I am still a Roman Catholic and we would not pretend to have become the other. But just as neither of us becomes genetically part of each other's family and yet find that we are not entirely separate either, our respective church communities likewise increasingly become something without which we are incomplete as worshipping and committed Christians. It is indeed true that we bring our churches' divisions into our marriage just as we bring our other sins, but it is our experience that the grace of the sacrament by which we live on a daily basis gives us a perspective on those divisions which enables us truly to know a degree of unity which is far, far greater than the areas which divide us. Inevitably then for us this unity is passed on to our son. The love, differences, misunderstandings which we share as a couple, in our extended families and our church families are all part of the legacy which we pass on. It is difficult for us to see how it could be otherwise. Within this context we feel that our spiritual need to share sacramentally is both serious and a special case. In the reality of our marriage God joins us in both body and spirit and so we feel that this sharing becomes essential, as an expression of unity already achieved as well as food for the ongoing journey. I am sure that others will claim similar exceptional status, although it is difficult to imagine large numbers coming forward with such restricted conditions in place. 

We understand that the Roman Catholic Church claims that 'the one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church' (Directory, p. 18), but also that 'Human folly and human sinfulness however have at times opposed the unifying purpose of the Holy Spirit and weakened that power of love which overcomes inherent tensions in the ecclesial life' (ibid.); perhaps interchurch couples can live a prophetic witness which is more consonant with that unifying purpose as we work to overcome those tensions within our domestic church and beyond, bearing more of the pain in being privileged to experience the vision of unity a little more fully. 

Kathy Pope

This article was published in the Summer 1997 issue of The Journal.

Ecclesiological Implications of Interchurch Marriages

Appeal to our Churches
In July 1993 Fr Rene Beaupere OP and Pasteur Jacques Maury, who have worked with interchurch families for over thirty years, addressed an Appel a nos Eglises directed to the churches in France and elsewhere (see Interchurch Families, January 1996). They were not making any requests on behalf of interchurch families; they were asking the churches to recognise that the very existence of interchurch families, spanning the divide between two churches and living concretely within both communities, raised important ecclesiological questions for the churches to tackle.

A reply by the Churches
They had received various provisional replies at an earlier stage. The Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed Churches in France, however, took their request seriously, and after reflection and consultation sent a reply in December 1996 signed jointly by Mgr Gerard Daucourt, President of the Catholic Bishops' Commission for Christian Unity, and by Pasteur Werncr Jurgensen, President of the Permanent Council of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of France. A synthesis had been made from independent replies received from the French Reformed Church, the Lutheran Churches in France, and the Catholic Church, which latter had organised some research among interchurch couples in the Paris region and had also consulted diocesan ecumenical officers through the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity.

The churches agreed that it had been an opportunity to reassess the situation of mixed couples, so deeply affected by divisions. On the pastoral side, they recognised that "consideration for people, for the couples themselves, is more important than purely juridical statements". The churches have different experiences here because of the numbers involved: only 2% of weddings in Catholic churches are of mixed couples (although in the diocese of Strasbourg it was 20% in 1994), whereas three-quarters or a half of the weddings in Reformed or Lutheran churches involve mixed couples, depending on the region. In both cases, however, it was agreed that pastoral care needed to be developed much more. "It is not a case of proposing ready-made solutions, but while respecting the liberty and responsibility of particular couples, and taking account of their personal history and situation, of helping them to make authentic choices, even if they are sometimes difficult."

It was agreed that in many cases partners already play important roles in the church of their spouses, and share in many ministries. "Thus there is already a recognition of the presence of mixed couples in each of the churches." On the juridical side, however, there was a marked reluctance to make changes in canon law and church discipline to take account of their experience of "double insertion" in the life of the churches for fear that their challenge to the churches to come closer together - a challenge needed by the churches on their road to reciprocal recognition - would be weakened. If interchurch families become comfortable in their "double insertion", they might cease to exert pressure for closer unity. "There could be very little difference between a 'reconciled island' and a 'ghetto'."

The fundamental eccIesiological differences between the churches has led to the adoption of very different positions in practice, and the letter repeated what these positions are. The Catholic Church judges that the conditions do not exist in France to go beyond what the Ecumenical Directory of 1993 has established at world level. The French Reformed Church thinks it is possible to live together as companions in faith without obliterating differences nor trying to get beyond them in an institutional way. The Lutheran Churches of France think that the way forward is not towards a "double eccJesiaJ belonging" but through effective participation in the life of the communities of the two partners. But the churches are not satisfied with the present situation, and realise that they must follow up the eccIesiological debate together.

Comments
Both Fr Rene Beaupere and Pasteur Jacques Maury expressed their gratitude for the reply. They want "to continue to pursue this essential dialogue". Fr Beaupere points out once again that ecumenical relationships are too fragile, too easily reversed by a change of minister who interprets church documents differently from his predecessor- or indeed, is unaware of their existence. What has been gained needs to be fixed in church practice and structures. But above all, the ecclesiological questions remain to be tackled. The replies only recognise some exceptions, some adaptations, some tolerances here and there, an acceptance that there is sometimes an active presence of a member of another church in the confessional bodies. But instead of reflecting on this lived experience and drawing out the canonical consequences, the churches start from their classical theological positions and so have little difficulty in showing it is not possible to go further, at least for the moment.

"But true ecumenism begins when the principle of conversion is accepted - a conversion which includes ecclesial structures. This is where we need to make progress. This will not make jl)yers mixtes a "special case" of a different nature from that of other ecumenical groups of theologians, of the faithful, even if foyers lnixtes do represent an extreme situation. But none of these groups are to placed in a 'ghetto' it needs to be recognised that without breaking with their mother churches they are spiritual places where reconciliation operates more effectively than in the rest of the ecclesial body. It is necessary to analyse why this is so. .. . Unity will not fall ready-made from heaven ... it is being restored step by step, and communion will spread like an oil spill ... But the church authorities need to integrate these 'islands of reconciliation' where they appear into the life of the churches at the structural level too - otherwise they risk becoming only temporary manifestations, a sort of cancerous growth which will only add to division. This is the way, it seems to Jacques Maury and to myself, that we need to move forward in reflection and action; there will be no ecumenical advance without this new effort."

(The full texts can be found in the review Foyers Mixtes Chretiens,no. 115 ,Jan-March 1997)