have been thrown into some confusion about participaliOn in ecumenical gatherings by a secret directive to Catholic bishops from the Apostolic Delegate. Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi.
The directive, communicated tootle bishops in a letter, was revealed by the National Catholic Reporter, a new Catholic weekly published by a group of laymen in Kansas City and circulating on a nationwide basis.
According to it, the Delegate's letter read: "The Holy See is deeply concerned about some excesses which are taking place in religious services wherein Catholics and non-Catholics participate.
"Because these excesses give rise to great wonderment, and indeed bewilderment, among the faithful, the Holy Sce wishes the bishops to understand that, until the conciliar commission has established specific and definitive norms regarding communicatio in sucris, participation in such ceremonies should be avoided.
"Undue haste and lack of proper preparation in contacts with our separated brethren could jeopardise the attainment' of sound ecumenical results which the council seeks to promote and could,in fact, endanger existing cordial relations with other Christian communities."
The newspaper said the letter did not make it clear whether the "Holy See" referred to an office of the Roman Curia or to the Tope.
At least one U.S. bishop— Bishop George Retiring of Toledo—condemned joint religious services after receipt of the Delegate's letter. Objections to the letter were based on its secrecy and on the fact that the impression may be given that Catholics have turned their backs on the ecumenical movement.
The Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism said that in certain special circumstances it is allowable, indeed desirable, that Catholics should join in prayer with their separated brethren."
it added that worship in common is not to be considered as a means to be used indiscriminately for the restoration of Christian unity. It also said:
"Witness to the unity of the Church very generally forbids common worship to Christians, but the grace to be had from it sometimes commends this practice.
"The course to be adopted, with due regard to all the circumstances of time, place and persons, is to be decided by local episcopal authority, unless otherwise provided for by the bishops' conference according to its statutes, or by the Holy See."
• MORE FREEDOM is to he allow ed to New Zealand's Catholics in taking part in common prayer with non-Catholics and in attendance at non-Catholic services.
Announcing new directives in a joint pastoral letter, the country's bishops expressed a hope that they would promote the ecumenical cause without endangering the unity of faith or encouraging false impressions. The letter said: 1 PRIVATE PRAYER with non I Catholics is permissible, if the prayers are those common to all or are otherwise approved. This includes meetings which are not public.
2 CATHOLICS may also attend
school assembly prayers led by a teacher or non-Catholic minister, provided the prayers are approved ones or common to all. A priest can also read these prayers.
9 PRAYER IN COMMON is e.). permissible at gatherings of a national or civic nature which are not official services of a denomination.
4 CATHOLICS, for reasons of public office, friendship or
courtesy, can attend religious ceremonies in non-Catholic churches. In the future a Catholic may be best man or bridesmaid at a valid wedding between non-Catholics.
J. ATTENDANCE as an official epresentatiye of the Church or of a Catholic society or organisation at such ceremonies as the funeral of a statesman, civic personality or high ecclesiastic is also permissible.
The bishops said: "The best contribution (to the ,ecumenical cause) we can make as a beginning is to renew our own Christian lives in the spirit of the Gospel. This very thing will he our greatest initial effort for unity among all Christians".
The new directives, they added, were in accordance with the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism.
• Dr. Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, told New Zealand church dignitaries in Wellington that the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church could have "great cooperation" with each other, although ultimate unity would involve dogmatic changes on both sides.
Dr. Ramsey is to meet Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, when he arrives in Australia from
New Zeal-and. "I-he meeting will he private, and comes atter a wish expressed by the Cardinal to meet Dr. Ramsey.
• A theological professor in Richmond, Virginia, has warned Protestants not to be "too eager" to compromise theological doctrine for the sake of unity. He is Dr. John Newton Thomas, who was a delegate-observer fur the World Presbyterian Alliance at the -Second Vatican Council.
• In Canton, Ohio, two Catholic and six non-Catholic churches are co-operating as board members of a new group formed to build an eight-storey home for old folk.
• Non-Catholics will now be permitted to he witnesses at any marriage performed in Saginaw, Michigan, when they are brothers or sisters of one of the couple. Another new regulation announced means that a priest at a mixed marriage can use the same rite as at a marriage of two Catholics.
• Anglican and Methodist delegations to the Australian Council of Churches' annual meeting in Sydney both proposed the union of Australian churches within a decade. Other members of the council include Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, the Churches of Christ, the Society of Friends, and the Salvation Army.