The Gospel Imperative Concerning Christian Unity
Church unity is central to the mission that Jesus Christ entrusted to his church. The scandal of disunity is the single greatest threat to our mission. Jesus asks all Christians to be united. Without the witness of that unity, the whole world will never realise that the Father has indeed sent Jesus.
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23
For Catholics then, working for Christian unity is not a matter that we can choose not to be involved in.
The Teaching of the Second Vatican Council
“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especiallythose who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs andanxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echoin their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are ledby the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomedthe news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes thatit is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.”
Gaudium et Spes #1
“Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided. Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.”
Unitatis Redintegratio #1
The Decree on Ecumenism outlines Catholic principles of ecumenism and reminds us that under the influence of the Holy Spirit much is already being done to make Christian unity more visible.
The Second Vatican Council speaks of five ways of working towards Christian Unity. These are:
- Making every effort to eliminate words, judgements and actions which do not respond to the condition of separated brothers and sisters with truth and fairness and so makemutual relations between them more difficult;
- Through dialogue between competent experts from different Churches and communitiesexplaining the teachings of each communion in greater depth and bringing out clearly itsdistinctive features. Through such dialogue, everyone gains a truer knowledge and more justappreciation of the teachings and religious life of each communion.
- Co-operating more closely in whatever projects a Christian conscience demands for the common good;
- Coming together for common prayer, where this is permitted;
- Examining our own faithfulness to Christ’s will for the Church and, wherever necessary, undertaking the task of renewal and reform.
The Teaching of Pope John Paul II
The Catholic Church embraces with hope the commitment to ecumenism as a duty of the Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love.
“When I say for me, Bishop of Rome, the ecumenical task is one of the pastoral priorities of my Pontificate, I think of the grave obstacle which the lack of unity represents for the proclamation of the gospel. A Christian Community which believes in Christ and desires with gospel fervour the salvation of people can hardly be closed to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who leads all Christians towards full and visible unity.” Ut Unum Sint #8
A Teaching from the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms of Ecumenism
Concern for restoring unity pertains to the whole church, faithful and clergy alike. It extends to everyone, according to the potential of each, whether it be exercised in daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies.
Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms of Ecumenism #55
The Relationship of the Church to non-Christian Religions
As a member of the wider Human Family we are also committed to the constant dialogue between all our brothers and sisters.
The Church, therefore, urges her sons and daughters to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.” Nostra Aetate #2
“…Accordingly, the Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, colour, condition in life or religion.” Ibid #5
The Ballarat Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations has a mandate to assist and resource the Bishop and the people of the Diocese to ensure that ecumenism and interreligious relations are organic elements of the life and mission of the Diocese pervading all that the Church is and does.
In order to carry out its mandate, the Commission:
- initiates opportunities for and co operates with other Christian traditions in ecumenical prayer:
- promotes relations between the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches by fostering local conversations and engaging in official diocesan dialogue between the Catholic Church and other Church traditions;
- promotes joint witness to the Christian faith by co operating with other churches in education and social issues.
- interacts with appropriate bodies in the Diocese to prepare guidelines on issues within the Commission’s mandate;
- coordinates and promotes ecumenical programmes for use by various ecumenical groups and supports the Catholic community in its growth in understanding ecumenical issues;
- takes initiative with people from other world religions to promote mutual understanding, respect, enrichment and co operation for the greater good of the human family;
- represents the Diocese or the Bishop when appropriate on ecumenical and interreligious bodies.
Contact Executive Officer:
Rev Gregory Tait
PO Box 121
Ph: (03) 5523 1046
Email: Rev Gregory Tait