The Vatican (Friday, 05-01-2015, Gaudium Press) Pope Francis says that the cause of Christian unity is “not an optional undertaking” and that the Holy Spirit can accomplish what “humanly does not seem possible.”
The Pope said this Thursday when he received in audience the members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. The group is studying the relationship between the universal Church and the local Church, with particular reference to processes for discussions and decision making regarding moral and ethical questions.
The issue is key for ongoing dialogue with the Anglican Communion, which is facing internal rifts over the decision to allow the episcopal ordination of women.
The Pope acknowledged “new difficulties and challenges” in the dialogue “Though we are fully aware of the seriousness of the challenges ahead, we can still realistically trust that together great progress will be made,” he said.
He congratulated the commission members on the five jointly agreed statements of the second phase of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, with commentaries and responses, that are soon to be published.
“The cause of unity is not an optional undertaking and the differences which divide us must not be seen as inevitable,” he continued. “Some wish that, after fifty years, greater progress towards unity would have been achieved. Despite difficulties, we must not lose heart, but we must trust even more in the power of the Holy Spirit, who can heal and reconcile us, and accomplish what humanly does not seem possible.”
Ecumenism of blood
Pope Francis affirmed that there is a bond of unity among Catholics and Anglicans that goes beyond any division: the testimony of persecuted Christians.
“The blood of these martyrs will nourish a new era of ecumenical commitment, a fervent desire to fulfill the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one,” he said. “The witness by these our brothers and sisters demands that we live in harmony with the Gospel and that we strive with determination to fulfill the Lord’s will for his Church. Today the world urgently needs the common, joyful witness of Christians, from the defence of life and human dignity to the promotion of justice and peace.
“Together let us invoke the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to be able to respond courageously to ‘the signs of the times’ which are calling all Christians to unity and common witness.”