Every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation we pray the Nicene Creed, our Profession of Faith. One of the articles states, “We believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic church.”
It is worthwhile from time to time to meditate on the words of our prayers and our Profession of Faith. The Catholic Catechism is a good place to begin a reflection on the four marks of the Church: one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. Our belief in the unity of the Church is meant to be lived each day as we cooperate with the grace of God.
The modern ecumenical movement began for Catholics at the Second Vatican Council. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm as Catholics and other Christians gathered for prayer and began to learn what we have in common and where we are different. As time goes on, we periodically need to re-energize our interest in promoting the unity of the Church and the will of Jesus for the unity of his disciples.
On May 25, 1995, Pope Saint John Paul II issued his encyclical Ut Unum Sint. Twenty-five years later, Bishop Joseph Bambera, serving as chairman for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued the statement: “This anniversary should serve as a reminder that the way of ecumenism is the way of the Church, and that all Catholics are called to espouse a strong commitment to building Christian unity.”
Pope Saint John Paul, who worked tirelessly to build ecumenical relationships, described the impulse of working for unity between Christians as “a duty of Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love.”
We rejoice that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continued to advance this singular mission between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. May this anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s call for Christian unity serve as a unique pastoral opportunity to build bridges by continuing to reach out with love to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. “May He heal our wounds of division and help us grow closer in unity.”
This year, the Scranton Diocese will broadcast a virtual prayer service for Christian unity on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 12:10 p.m. Father Russell McDougall, C.S.C, of King’s College will serve as the homilist.
All Christians have a responsibility for the sake of the Gospel to pray for unity, develop ecumenical friendships, and cooperate for the common good.