Former pastoral leader pushes for ecumenism

5 Pat Lythe (1)

Former Auckland Pastoral Services leader Pat Lythe has called on the New Zealand Catholic Church to put ecumenism at the top of its agenda as St Pope John Paul II called for in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint (That all May be One).

Mrs Lythe, who represented the Church in various ecumenical groups, said John Paul II emphasised the need for followers of Christ to be united. She added that Pope Francis has been meeting with leaders of the different Christian churches to achieve this goal.

However, she feared people in the pews are still not aware of this movement.

“The priests need to be on board with the ecumenical movement. We really
need to let everybody know in our pews and in our parishes that this is
really important. It should be at the top of the agenda but it always falls to the bottom. It’s hardly ever talked about in parish councils, hardly ever talked about anywhere because we are so busy looking after ourselves,” she said.

Mrs Lythe gave a talk on Ut Unum Sint at the Pompallier Centre in Auckland on October 1. She retired from her post last year.

“From my perspective, I can’t see us achieving organic unity in practice but we can achieve diverse unity,” she said.

The “tricky areas” that are being currently talked about between the different Christian Churches are the Eucharist (only Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ), ordination of celibate men only, the role of the Pope and the role of the Virgin Mary.

Mrs Lythe said she believes Pope Francis is also open to not being the head of a unified Christian Church.

“He invites church leaders to help him discover how he can exercise his role more effectively,” she said. “The Pope is now open to the idea that no longer is he the top dog. He is prepared to hear from other churches what they want to do about it.”

Mrs Lythe said receptive ecumenism is where the movement is going at the

“Receptive ecumenism is actually listening and being with and experiencing what they [other Christians] do. Pope Francis does this all the time,” she said. “It is when you listen to one another in humility.”

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Rowena Orejana

Reader Interactions


  1. Greg says

    (1) ecumenism with whom? The familiar and friendly but rapidly contracting mainline European Protestants? Or are we trying to be ecumenical with the Eastern Orthodox who are closer on the “tricky areas” of…
    (2) Real-presence, celibate male priesthood, Sacramental confession, sanctifying grace, grace and response in salvation, purgatory, communion of saints, sacrificial suffering, deutero-canon, and, oh, Mary – ever Virgin, Immaculately conceived, etc… just a few pretty “tricky areas” if they are really engaged with.

    If we concede that we are functional universalists or relativists (or Pelagians or Marcionites) then I accept the ecumenical process of dialogue, presence, and listening has no urgency or eternal importance. Just carry on having “cake and tea with the Vicar” as Eddy Izzard puts it. If, however, we belong to same church as St. Francis Assisi, St Theresa of Kolkata and St Francis Xavier then I might want to revisit some of my assumptions.

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