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Why is Christian Unity important to Catholics?
posted on 01 January 1900
Catholic Diocese of Westminster
Diocese of Westminster

In his Jubilee letter for the year 2000, Pope John Paul said:

By fixing our gaze on Christ, the Great Jubilee has given us a vivid sense of the Church as a mystery of unity The prayer of Jesus in the Upper Room- as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us (Jn 17:21) is both revelation and invocation. It reveals to us the unity of Christ with the Father as the wellspring of the Churchs unity and as the gift which in him she will constantly receive until its mysterious fulfilment at the end of time Christs prayer reminds us that this gift needs to be received and developed ever more profoundly It is on Jesus prayer and not on our own strength that we base the hope that even within history we shall be able to reach full and visible communion with all Christians. (Novo Millennio Ineunte 48)

In other words, Christian Unity is not only Jesus prayer for his disciples in the Church, it is his plan for the completion of his creation and the redemption of all humanity. So the barriers between Christians stand in the way of Christs will. The Catholic Church, led by the ministry of our Pope as the successor to St Peter, the leader of the Apostles, therefore has a vocation to build ever closer unity and communion among Gods people. Indeed it has been renewed by the call of Christ to unity, especially since the Second Vatican Council. To be Catholic is to be ecumenical.

The Diocese of Westminster takes this teaching seriously and seeks to foster a spirit of unity and reconciliation in every part of its life and work. In accordance with the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (which was published by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity at Rome in 1993), we invite members of other Christian traditions to be actively involved with us in this task.

The short study version by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales in 2002 (developed by our own Bishop Bernard Longley), The Search for Christian Unity, makes our ecumenical commitment very clear. It should be carefully studied, because the practical details of working, witnessing, praying and sharing dialogue together with other Christians are essential:

God is drawing all human beings, and all creation, into union with himself. To accomplish this, the crucified and risen Christ is calling human beings into the new People of God, the Church. This Church embraces an immense variety of women and men. To establish this People, Christ called the Twelve Apostles, with Peter as head, and gave them the task of preaching the Gospel, celebrating the sacraments and leading the People of God in love. The Church continues to be served by the ordained ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. What holds the Church together is the bonds of faith and sacrament, and a ministry which is hierarchical... United in this way, the People of God forms a communion or to give its Greek name, koinonia, fellowship. (Search for Christian Unity  1. Cf Lumen Gentium 2&5 and Directory on Ecumenism  11-12)

From this we understand that the very structure of the Catholic Church is to serve the unity of all humanity in Christ through the unity and communion of the entire people of God. Thus our life as the Diocese of Westminster consistently reaffirms the call to work for the day when together with each and everyone of Christs followers we shall be able to join wholeheartedly in singing How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity (Ps 133:1) (Novo Millennio Adveniente 48)

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