January 28, 2002
Ecumenism for Catholics
By John Bookser Feister


Starting Points
The Mother Lode of Links
Web Pick
Check Out

A fan of communications theorist Marshall McLuhan predicted recently that, just as the invention of the printing press resulted in divisions among Christians, the presence of the Internet will encourage Christians to reunite. I think he is right. The Bible, after all, was the first book off the presses, and its spread caused people to raise all manner of questions. The Catholic Church reacted by closing ranks, insulating itself for centuries from the Protestant movement.

Vatican II struck a new note: "The Sacred Council exhorts all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism" (Decree on Ecumenism, 4). Nearly 40 years later, the World Wide Web is making this action all the more possible. In fact, more and more of us are learning more about each other, becoming less insulated.

Starting Points

January is a month when Christian unity is on our minds. On Jan. 18 Catholics in the United States observed a day of prayer for Christian Unity. Pope John Paul II's interfaith peace-prayer gathering in Assisi was held on Jan. 24. What better way to continue that prayer than to surf Christian Web sites for understanding?

A good starting point would be the "Resources for Religious Educators" site. There you'll find links to Vatican II documents on ecumenism and links to an extensive selection of other Catholic documents and backgrounders on the subject.

A fine, concise overview of Christian denominations and their roots can be found in our own Catholic Update, "The Christian Family Tree," by Father Thomas Bokenkotter. Another Catholic Update, "How Catholics Understand Grace," provides a good backgrounder on the historic agreement between Lutherans and Roman Catholics in 2000. You can find other articles on ecumenism at AmericanCatholic.org by using the site's "St. Anthony Search Engine."

The Mother Lode of Links

During my years as a Catholic journalist, my favorite reference for Protestant Churches has been the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, published by the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. That reference book is now supplemented by ElectronicChurch.org. You'll still need to buy the book for the excellent, concise backgrounders, but the free link page at that site contains perhaps the Web's best and most up-to-date listing of Christian denominational links.

I encourage you to use that page as a launching point for learning more about the life and ministries of the Christian denominations that interest you most. If you find the great number of denominational listings perplexing, that might be a starting point for your own prayer for Christian unity.

Web Pick

What a refreshing find! This site is targeted at Catholic teens by a group of professional youth catechists. It boasts clean, contemporary design, regular chat sessions with interesting people, and a growing content area chocked with reliable Catholic content. The site, run by a nonprofit, is affiliated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Check Out

It's all here on this site, from photos of parish events to directories, bulletins, catechetics and outreach of returning Catholics. Especially nice is the section on liturgy. The site features a search engine—a must for larger sites.

Ted Koppel's Nightline ran an important weeklong series Jan. 21-25 on the alarming situation of poverty and war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "We thought you should know about this," he said in his introduction. The story, including the work of two brave Italian priests, is both heartbreaking and alarming. The Web site provides supplemental information, links, and video samples of the program. A link he missed is Catholic Relief Services.

The Continental Congress on Vocations, the pope's World Youth Day 2002 and the tour of Therese of Lisieux's relics are all upcoming in Canada this year. Learn about them from the Canadian Catholic Bishops' fine site.

Friar Jack's E-spirations
Catholic Greetings Premiere
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A Message From Friar Jack

Welcome to our newly redesigned e-newsletter! I hope you like the new look. This first issue, as promised, offers a column from my colleague John Bookser Feister, "Web Catholic." The next issue, in two weeks, will contain my musings (this time on terrorism and evil), and then Web Catholic again two weeks after that, and so on.

Although the look of our e-newsletter has changed, we will keep telling you about the latest events at AmericanCatholic.org and highlighting resources for you to use in your daily Catholic life. We hope you continue to find information and inspiration here.


Web Exclusive: Eyewitness Assisi Account

AmericanCatholic.org brings you an exclusive account of Pope John Paul II's trip to Assisi to pray for peace. We bring you Franciscan Friar Jimmy Zammit's report from Assisi, where the pope led an interfaith prayer service.


Other Web Exclusives

During the past year we've created a number of Web-exclusive features on Catholic issues in the news. You can find these in the AmericanCatholic.org archives, or just click on the links below:
Stem-cell Research
Death Penalty
Terrorism and War


Abandoning Your New Year's Resolutions?

Have you already abandoned your New Year's resolutions? The Church offers you a second chance at renewal during Lent. In the latest Catholic Update, "Praying With Lenten Scriptures, Day by Day," author Christopher M. Bellitto writes, "Let this Lent be a time of self-reflection, courage, and resolve to get right with God."


Poetry And The Gospel Readings For Lent To Easter

Cast the "fresh eye" of poetry on the Gospel readings for Lent and Holy Week in the new book, Praying the Gospels Through Poetry: Lent to Easter, by Peggy Rosenthal. Each chapter includes reflection on a poem pertaining to the Gospel by a contemporary (with one exception) poet.

If you want to know more, try our St. Anthony search engines.

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