Common faith in Christ is not divisive, but rather, unifying. Every Christian church should have the mark of unity in the core of its mission.
Correcting our reluctance to unity
Among us Catholics and Protestants, exclusivity from within has eaten us as if Christianity fits in a specific frame. The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium clearly emphasizes the unique connectivity of churches, with one common aspiration is splendid evidence of the catholicity of the undivided Church (LG, 23).
Unity should break the wall of division existing among Churches.
Much is still to be done even after Vatican II, and even in the many discourses of Pope Francis on Christian unity he keeps on encouraging not only Roman Catholics but also other Christian believers to take unity to heart.
He goes beyond the theological ramifications of unity, on issues regarding “one true church”, or ‘subsistit in’; rather, he speaks of the journey of ecumenism as: “together… let us ‘build’ unity through prayer, works of charity and mutual cooperation.” (Pope Francis, Message to the Ecumenical Delegation from Finland, 17 January 2022).
Desiring full unity
The legitimacy of our Christian belief cannot be proven by the insistence of the diverse characters and expressions of each of our faiths. More so, by the way we demonize the faith of the ‘other’. We have seen the history of wars and destructions fueled by religious conflicts and opportunism — Christianity as lacking of true Christian witnessing.
During Pope Francis’ Meeting with His Beatitude Hieronymus II last December 4, 2021, he said: “Tragically, in later times we grew apart. Worldly concerns poisoned us, weeds of suspicion increased our distance and we ceased to nurture communion… Shamefully – I acknowledge this for the Catholic Church – actions and decisions that had little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel, but were instead marked by a thirst for advantage and power, gravely weakened our communion. In this way, we let fruitfulness be compromised by division. History makes its weight felt, and here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics. Yet we are comforted by the certainty that our roots are apostolic and that, notwithstanding the twists and turns of time, what God planted continues to grow and bear fruit in the same Spirit. It is a grace to recognize one another’s good fruits and to join in thanking the Lord for this.”
In the Roman Catholic context, full unity is beyond recognizing or accepting the validity of the elements of other Christian denominations; it is more of a challenge on the part of the Roman Catholics to seek and offer pardon—with humility.
Living in communion
The totality of ecumenical unity is achieved in lived communion among churches. A local parish community can start a once-a-month ecumenical prayer with other religious denominations, or a common Bible study, or a social action initiative of helping the poor.
Ecumenism is in itself witnessing to communion, “our brokenness and division contradict Christ’s will for the unity of his disciples and hinder the mission of the Church. This is why the restoration of unity between Christians, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is such an urgent task.” (World Council of Churches, The Church Towards a Common Vision, Faith and Order Paper No. 214, no. 68)
Churches must continue to explore the opportunities for communion, these can be found in ecclesial and civil spaces where dialogue can be made possible.
Pope Francis reiterated his continuing call for dialogue: “United in this faith, let us seek with determination to make visible our communion” (Message of Pope Francis to Bartholomew I On the Occasion of the Feast of St. Andrew, 30 November 2021)
Bro. Jaazeal Jakosalem, OAR is a Filipino Laudato Si’ reader and a member of Pusyon Kinaiyahan, an environmental group in the Visayas. He is currently based in Germany as a member of PCPR-Europe and is working for Philippine campaigns related to the protection of human rights.