Is this timely or what?
77. The power of evangelization will find itself considerably diminished if those who proclaim the Gospel are divided among themselves in all sorts of ways. Is this not perhaps one of the great sicknesses of evangelization today? Indeed, if the Gospel that we proclaim is seen to be rent by doctrinal disputes, ideological polarizations or mutual condemnations among Christians, at the mercy of the latter’s differing views on Christ and the Church and even because of their different concepts of society and human institutions, how can those to whom we address our preaching fail to be disturbed, disoriented, even scandalized?
The Lord’s spiritual testament tells us that unity among His followers is not only the proof that we are His but also the proof that He is sent by the Father. It is the test of the credibility of Christians and of Christ Himself. As evangelizers, we must offer Christ’s faithful not the image of people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church. This is a source of responsibility and also of comfort.
At this point we wish to emphasize the sign of unity among all Christians as the way and instrument of evangelization. The division among Christians is a serious reality which impedes the very work of Christ. The Second Vatican Council states clearly and emphatically that this division “damages the most holy cause of preaching the Gospel to all (people), and it impedes many from embracing the faith.”[Ad Gentes 6; Unitatis Redintegratio 1] For this reason, in proclaiming the Holy Year we considered it necessary to recall to all the faithful of the Catholic world that “before all (people) can be brought together and restored to the grace of God our Father, communion must be reestablished between those who by faith have acknowledged and accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord of mercy who sets (people) free and unites them in the Spirit of love and truth.”[Bull Apostolorum Limina, VII: AAS 66 (1974), p. 305]
And it is with a strong feeling of Christian hope that look to the efforts being made in the Christian world for this restoration of the full unity willed by Christ. St. Paul assures us that “hope does not disappoint us.”[Rom 5:5] While we still work to obtain full unity from the Lord, we wish to see prayer intensified. Moreover we make our own the desire of the Fathers of the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, for a collaboration marked by greater commitment with the Christian brethren with whom we are not yet united in perfect unity, taking as a basis the foundation of Baptism and the patrimony of faith which is common to us. By doing this we can already give a greater common witness to Christ before the world in the very work of evangelization. Christ’s command urges us to do this; the duty of preaching and of giving witness to the Gospel requires this.
While Pope Paul was speaking of a lack of harmony between Christian traditions, what we writes seems very apt for the divisions within the Roman Catholic Church today. One challenge is the segregation of interests. Not only do Christian groups worship separately from one another, but within the Roman tradition, there has grown a clear splintering of parts. Bishops chum with bishops. Priests with their own. Deacons have their groups. Lay ministers. Lay people with different ideologies fall together online. What we miss is priests fostering true relationships with parishioners. Bishops with their diocesan clergy. Conservative and liberal Catholics coming together to address real life parish issues.
In this climate, is it any wonder the witness of Christianity to non-believers can be laughable?