THERE is widespread ignorance among Catholics about the National Commissions and their work, according to Mr. George Bull, chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission. So I thought it might be useful if I said something about the Ecumenical Commission.
President is Bishop Clark, and he is assisted by two other episcopal members, Bishops Fox and Butler. Body of the commission is made up of 21 diocesan members and 11 expert members. The diocesan members are appointed by the 19 diocesan bishops, and by the Bishop to the Forces and the Ukrainian Exarch.
Between them. the diocesan members are a fair cross section of the Church in these countries : 11 of them are secular priests (eight in parishes; one a seminary teacher; one director of a pastoral centre; and one fulltime ecumenist); three more are religious priests (two of them in parishes); there is one nun; and there are six lay people — four of them women.
So we have plenty of members who are in touch with the local situation. Of our 11 experts (shortly to be reduced to seven, painlessly we hope), three are secular clergy, five are religious, and there are two lay women and one lay man.
Nor should we forget our two B.C.C. observers. Canon Saxon from Manchester (Anglican) and the Rev. A. Raymond George from Bristol (Methodist). Then, there is the secretary (myself).
The commission is fortunate in having a complete in f rastructu re of diocesan ecumenical commissions—well. almost complete: one diocese hasn't got round to it yet. The secretaries of these do a great job in their varying local situations. You may have felt that nuns are rather unrepresented on the national commission. Be consoled by the fact that, of 18 diocesan ecumenical secretaries, six are nuns; six more are secular priests, and six are lay people (five of them women).
What do all these people do? The National Commission exists (as the Ecumenical Directory requires) to advise the bishops on the implementation of the Church's teaching on ecumenism, and to assist them in putting it into practice. It also has the task of supporting — and receiving support from —bodies that seek to promote ecumenical understanding and action at local level. And, of course, it has to be the official point of contact with other Churches and with national ecumenical bodies.
Since unity is one of the marks of the Church, work for unity is part and parcel of every aspect of the Church's life. This is why it is so good to find that those who are commissioned by the bishops to make such work their chief concern do in fact represent almost every walk of life in the Church.
Other commissions could tell a similar tale, and they will shortly he doing so. For these Ecumenical Notes are now to yield place to a similar feature in which. every week, one or other of the commissions will reflect on some aspect of its work for the Church in England and Wales.