Promoting Christian unity is not optional

Catholics must work towards Christian unity, a new guidebook from the Vatican says.

It can no longer be seen as “optional” by bishops. They won’t be left to work out how on their own though.

The new guidebook, released by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, offers practical ways for bishops to promote unity between Christians.

Bishops must pray “personally and publicly for other Christian leaders,” promote ecumenical work online and appoint ecumenical officers and commissions.

At the same time, the guide warns against getting involved in heated arguments or “misrepresenting the positions of other Christians.”

Instead Catholics should focus on “weighing truths rather than simply enumerating them,” it explains.

The goal of Christian unity may not be straightforward, however, as it raises a number of big questions.

One relates to Catholic-Anglican unity. Unless Pope Leo XIII’s decree that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void”.

“I think we must have a better interpretation,” Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the pontifical council says.

“I think it’s a very important question because the validity of the ordination is the biggest obstacle for sharing the same altar …”

Another problem concerning Anglican-Catholic unification relates to the ordination of women as priests and bishops – a decision that is unacceptable for the Catholic Church.

The guidelines indicate there is no change in the offing regarding sharing communion with Christians from other denominations. The current rules – that allow this to happen in “certain circumstances” – are restated.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of People, says a “lack of unity among followers of Jesus” undermines evangelisation.

“The non-Christians are scandalised, really scandalised, when we all claim to be followers of Christ, and they see how we are fighting one another,” he said. “The lack of unity and even this almost outright anger toward one another – it weakens evangelisation.”

The 26-page guidebook has Pope Francis’s approval.

Throughout his pontificate has adopted an approach of “walking together, praying together and working together” with other Christians. He has consistently focused on what unites rather than divides denominations.


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