THE Pope has spoken of Christian unity as “an essential requirement of our faith”, and has said that Christians of different denominations will become closer to each other as they move closer to Jesus. Pope Francis made the comments at a meeting of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity — the ecumenical department in the Vatican — in Rome this month.
“We wish to live unity, because we wish to follow Christ, to live his love, to benefit from the mystery of his being one with the Father, which is the essence of divine love,” the Pope said. “According to Jesus’s priestly prayer, what we yearn for is unity in the love of the Father, which comes to us as a gift in Jesus Christ, love that also informs thought and doctrines.
“It is not enough to be in agreement in comprehension of the gospel, but it is necessary that all believers are united to Christ and in Christ. It is our personal and community conversion, our gradual conformation to him, our living increasingly in him, that enables us to grow in communion between us.”
The Pope has taken part in a number of ecumenical initiatives in recent weeks, including the sending out for joint mission of pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome (News, 14 October), and the joint RC-Lutheran commemoration of the Reformation in Lund and Malmö (News, 4 November).
Ecumenism was about churches’ working together, he said, rather than the merger of denominations.
He continued: “Christian unity does not lead to a ‘reverse ecumenism’, for which one would have to deny their own history of faith; neither does it tolerate proselytism, which is instead poisonous to the path of ecumenism.
“Before seeing what separates us, it is necessary to perceive also, in an existential way, the wealth of what we have in common, such as the sacred scripture and the great professions of faith of the first ecumenical councils.
“In this way, we Christians are able to acknowledge we are brothers and sisters who believe in the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, committed together to finding the way of obeying today the word of God, who wants us to be united. . .
“Ecumenism is true when it is able to move attention away from itself, from its own arguments and formulations, to the Word of God that demands to be heard, welcomed and witnessed in the world. Therefore, the various Christian communities are called not to compete with one another, but to collaborate.
“My recent visit to Lund reminded me of the relevance of the ecumenical principle formulated there by the World Council of Churches in 1952, which recommends that Christians ‘should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately’.”