In the Philippines, a small step towards Christian unity

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The Catholic Church and the Independent Church recognize the historical reasons for separation and undertake to cooperate.

A small step towards Christian unity has been taken in the Philippines.

The Roman Catholic Church and a splinter group known as the Independent Church of the Philippines signed a letter of understanding acknowledging the historical reasons for their separation and describing the areas in which they find agreement.

“We, representing the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), express our common thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift of the Gospel to the Filipino people,” said the August 3 statement. , “Celebrate the gift of faith, learn from the past and walk together.

This year the Church celebrated the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines.

“We recognize this gift of faith in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as expressed in the Symbol of the Apostles and the Symbol of Nicaea,” the statement read. “We share the same baptism, using the Trinitarian formula. This sacramental initiation incorporates us all into the one Body of Christ. In addition, both churches show strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoking her maternal intercession so that all her children come together and to defend the dignity of women.

An accompanying declaration signed the same day expressed the “mutual recognition of baptisms” between the IFI and the Catholic Church. The IFI uses the Trinitarian formula in baptism, and like some other Protestant churches, it is considered a valid sacrament by the Catholic Church.

The two Churches have declared themselves ready to engage in “spiritual ecumenism” and to participate in joint activities such as the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Stations of the Cross during the Lent and Holy Week processions, and reading of the Scriptures on Easter Sunday.

“Members of the two churches can also join hands in ministries of social action such as defending the human rights and dignity of the poor, migrants, women and children, and indigenous peoples; take care of the environment; and peace building. We can organize ecumenical commemorations for those who have died in the pursuit of social justice, ”the statement said.

Restoring full fellowship may take some time, however. Since the schism, the IFI has entered into a partnership pact with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and has established concordats of full communion with the Episcopal Churches and with several Churches of the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Churches of the ‘Union of Utrecht, and with the Church of Sweden. He also accepts women in ordained ministry.

Mutual forgiveness

The formation of the IFI in 1902 was not against the Catholic Church, according to the statement, but rather against “the continued domination of Spanish bishops and priests in the dioceses and parishes of the colony”. The schism occurred at a time of the struggle for independence against the colonial rule of Spain and the United States. “Within the framework of a nationalist revolution, the creation of the IFI also meant a” religious revolution “which appealed to the patriotic feelings of the population aspiring to the birth of a nation,” admitted the statement.

“The IFI and the RCC thus express their desire for more ecumenical cooperation in the midst of diversity,” the document concludes. “As church leaders, we ask and pray for mutual forgiveness for all hurts inflicted in the past. We will strive to heal and purify the memories among our members. “

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