Back from holidays, and I hardly know where to begin. Three amazing documents released from the Holy See in the last fortnight, two long looked for (the China Letter and the Motu Proprio) and one totally unexpected (the CDF Clarification “Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church”)–but all having some bearing on matters of Church Unity.
Church Unity (otherwise known as “ecumenism”) is, as you know well, both a professional and a personal passion for me.
I would like to address each of these three documents in separate blogs under the rubric of “Church Unity”–asking the quesiton: what is the ecumenical significance of this document?
In doing so, I am wanting to pick up on a short paragraph from the Holy Father’s explanatory letter accompanying the Motu Proprio:
Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.
This is the pope who prayed at the inauguration of his pontificate:
Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. Let us remember it in our prayer to the Lord, as we plead with him: yes, Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!
This is the pope who in his first message declared:
Peter’s current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty. He is aware that good intentions do not suffice for this. Concrete gestures that enter hearts and stir consciences are essential, inspiring in everyone that inner conversion that is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress.
Each of these three documents–the Letter to Chinese Catholics, the Motu Proprio on the Missal of John XXIII and the Clarification on the Doctrine on the Church–in their own way form such concrete actions to which the Pope alluded at the beginning of his pontificate.