Paul Couturier, ecumenist;Oscar Romero 24 March 2017

Paul Couturier, ecumenist (d 1953)

Paul Couturier, who died just over fifty years ago, was born in 1881 in Lyon, the great city where in 1274 the divisions between East and West had for a time been healed. After a time in Algeria, he was ordained in the Society of St Irenaeus in 1906, a company of mission and teaching priests. A graduate in physical sciences he became a teacher at the Society’s school founded in the Maison des Chartreux, the dissolved Carthusian monastery, where he remained until 1946.


Paul Couturier, Apostle of Unity The French priest who changed the ecumenical movement.

As a result of an Ignatian retreat in his early twenties Fr Albert Valensin SJ encouraged him to take up some relief work among Lyon’s 10,000 Russian refugees, and introduced him to Orthodoxy and a hitherto unknown world of spirituality, theological expression and Church life. Metropolitan Platon Gorodetsky (1803-1891) of Kiev’s saying, that ‘the walls of separation do not rise as far as heaven’, became a principle of Couturier’s ecumenical outlook. Then a month’s stay with the Benedictine Monks of Unity at Amay-sur-Meuse (nowadays living at Chevetogne in Belgium) formed a second important step towards the realisation of his ecumenical vocation. Strongly influenced by the teaching of Dom Lambert Beauduin, he placed the prayerful celebration of the Church’s liturgy – not as a private devotion, but the work of all the Church, lay and ordained – at the heart of his spiritual life. He became an oblate of Amay, taking the name Benoît-Irénée to acknowledge his two prime sources of inspiration. In the years to come he found this spirituality, which had so revived his own Church and the active participation and mission of Catholic lay people, could also embrace Christians of other Churches. All Christians could unite in regular prayer and devotion, each according to their own tradition and insight, for the sanctification of the world and the unity of Christ’s people. So was born the idea of ‘the Invisible Monastery’, a spiritual holy place and community, beyond the earth’s ‘walls of separation’, where God’s vision of his Church’s unity could be realised and celebrated in prayer, praise, mutual love and humility, for the sake of the world.

Spiritual Ecumenism

Couturier was deeply struck that Jesus’ prayer on the night before he died was not simply for his disciples’ unity, but that they might be one as the Father and the Son are one, so that the world might believe. He realised that the unity of Christians was therefore a reality in heaven, in God himself, and that overcoming the worldly Church’s divisions through penitence and charity would be offer a renewed faith to the whole world. So merely human efforts, methods and timetables would not in the end avail: what was needed was a ‘Spiritual Ecumenism’, that prays for the unity of Christians ‘according to his will, according to his means’.

(24 March 1980)



Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez The copyright holder for his image is the Office for the Canonization Cause of Óscar Arnulfo Romero of the San Salvador Archdiocese. The image qualifies for publication here under the “fair use” doctrine because all four of the “fair use” factors under section 107 of the Copyright Act, title 17, U. S. Code, favor its use. Specifically: (1) the purpose and character of the use is for nonprofit educational purposes, and not for commercial use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work is a historical photograph — an official portrait — of a prominent figure, and comes from a published source; (3) there was proportionate use, as only a low resolution version of the photograph is being used; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work will not be negative, since the photograph has been widely disseminated and published before. Additionally, copying of photographs to provide public with fullest information on major historical event is fair use. Time Inc. v. Bernard Geis Associates, 293 F.Supp. 130 (1968).

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980), commonly known as Monseñor Romero, was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. He later became prelate archbishop of San Salvador.

As an archbishop, he witnessed numerous violations of human rights and began a ministry speaking out on behalf of the poor and victims of the country’s civil war. His brand of political activism was denounced by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the government of El Salvador. In 1980, he was assassinated by gunshot while consecrating the Eucharist during mass. His death finally provoked international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador.

In 1997, a cause for beatification and canonization into sainthood was opened for Romero and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The process continues. He is considered the unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador and is often referred to as “San Romero” in El Salvador. Outside of Catholicism Romero is honored by other religious denominations of Christendom, like the Church of England through its Common Worship. He is one of the ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London.

Source: Oscar Romero – Satucket lectionary

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