Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Bishop Cupich appoints Father Patrick Hartin diocese’s Ecumenical Relations Officer
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the Dec. 16, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
Bishop Blase Cupich has appointed Father Patrick Hartin, a priest of the Spokane Diocese who is a Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University, as the diocese’s new Ecumenical Relations Officer, effective Nov. 1.
Father Hartin replaces Father Tom Caswell, who had served in the position since 1985.
Father Hartin is a professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University, where he has taught New Testament Studies since 1995. He has published several books on theological topics, including Introduction to the Bible (Eerdmans, 2009), which he co-wrote with Prof. Robert Kugler, a Lutheran pastor “and a good friend,” he said.
In a recent interview at the Catholic Pastoral Center, Father Hartin reflected on the work of ecumenical relations today.
“Jesus spoke very clearly at the Last Supper, praying that we be one, ‘Father, as he is one,’ to be united with one another,” said Father Hartin. “The fact that Christians are disunited into different groups and churches is, I think, something of a scandal to Christianity.
“The ultimate aim for ecumenism is the striving toward unity,” he said. “The best way one can achieve that is by getting to know each other, each other’s traditions, as well as the way we differ” from one another.
There are no “grand plans” in place as yet to further dialogue, he said. He will “start small, perhaps, and accomplish some things we can do together.” Possibilities might include special public prayer opportunities for couples in mixed marriages. “Prayer,” he said, “can bind us together. But it can be something that separates us, too.”
He is no stranger to ecumenism. Although he was incardinated as a priest of the Spokane Diocese in 2003, he originally was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Johannesburg, South Africa. There he was involved in ecumenical relations for over 20 years, including work on the Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Affairs for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC). Part of that ministry was attending a number of the annual meetings, as an observer, of the South African Council of Churches.
The SACBC also appointed him to be a member of the join Southern African Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Commission, which was affiliated with the Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.
“What energized me” about that ministry “was getting to know the other traditions” while being true “to one’s own traditions,” being able to say, “This is who we are. This is where we honestly differ,” while discovering “how much ultimately we do have in common.”