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Unity and Diversity: Can Catholics and different Christians be one?
posted on 01 January 1900
Catholic Diocese of Westminster
Diocese of Westminster

In the past, diversity was understood more as something to be overcome rather than a main component of the engine towards unity. Nowadays, church leaders and ecumenical experts have been considering how we live in society and in the Church with the pluralism and diversity of modern times. Unity does not need to mean uniformity. Indeed unity, to embrace all, needs richness and variety.

In the Catholic Church there are a number of other forms of the Eucharist, Divine Office and celebrations of the Sacraments, alongside the Roman Rite, with which most of us are familiar. Many Catholics celebrate the Byzantine Rite and other rites of the Eastern Church in common with the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Church. These are Catholics with an invaluable heritage in the Middle East and Asia, a number of which are represented in our Diocese through migration or as refugees. And recently, Pope Benedict, in the hope of reconciliation among Catholics in the Latin tradition, has permitted two forms of the single Roman Rite to be celebrated. So it can be the same in our hopes for unity with Christians of other traditions. Indeed, people speak of reconciled diversity.

  • So what are the differences between uniformity and unity?
  • What is essential in order to have unity?
  • What kind of unity will enable us all to enjoy the benefits and riches of Christian diversity?

There are many interpretations of what unity truly is, as the ministry of Christian Unity grows deeper and more effective in church life. These can include

  • Unity as a movement driven by committed individuals or groups
  • Unity as the work of organisations like Churches Together, led by official church representatives
  • Unity as a forum where sometimes very different perspectives meet in dialogue and spiritual discovery
  • Unity as a renewing effort, living and declaring the one Gospel of Christ together in serving the needs of the excluded and the oppressed; (see Novo Millennio Ineunte 49)
  • Unity for the renewal of the Church as an instrument of Gods renewal of his world
  • Unity as an already present gift of God which needs only to be claimed
  • Unity as a calling towards which we strive
  • Unity understood as universality or catholicity - the means by which the One Church is present and active in the local church and a variety of local contexts
  • Unity by which the same local church and variety of local contexts reveals and lives the life of the Universal Church, in fidelity to the continuous handing forward (Tradition) of teaching, worship and spirituality (unity in space and unity in time) Tradition is the living voice of the dead, not the dead voice of the living
  • Unity as a movement which brings order and reconciliation to the ambiguities and vicissitudes of history
  • Unity as a movement guided forward by the vision of the coming of Christ with a new world and a renewed church in the Kingdom of God
  • Unity and solidarity in pursuit of justice as the foundation of an authentic witness
  • Unity in shared witness and service as the soil out of which the Christian community grows

Question: Why does the Catholic Church not belong to the World Council of Churches?

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