If we are to be credible as The Reconciled Church we will need to render assistance in times of need as well as in our ordinary day-to-day interface with the world. Pope John Paul II counselled witness through personal example. Maybe it was easier to preach it in 1984, but the Church, particularly its ordained leadership has lost much luster in the intervening years. More falls to the laity as leaders in society and in the Church.
To the people of our time, so sensitive to the proof of concrete living witness, the church is called upon to give an example of reconciliation particularly within herself. And for this purpose we must all work
- to bring peace to people’s minds,
- to reduce tensions,
- to overcome divisions and
- to heal wounds that may have been inflicted by (neighbor) on (neighbor)
when the contrast of choices in the field of what is optional becomes acute; and on the contrary we must try to be united in what is essential for Christian faith and life, in accordance with the ancient maxim: In what is doubtful, freedom; in what is necessary, unity; in all things, charity.
The bullet points are mine. Sadly, many in the Church, clergy and laity alike, lose sight of this maxim. Many of us are attached, deeply so, to turf, to prudential judgments, and to pet projects.
One of the most hideous witness to the world is Christian disunity:
It is in accordance with this same criterion that the church must conduct her ecumenical activity. For in order to be completely reconciled, she knows that she must continue the quest for unity among those who are proud to call themselves Christians but who are separated from one another, also as churches or communions, and from the church of Rome. The latter seeks a unity which, if it is to be the fruit and expression of true reconciliation, is meant to be based neither upon a disguising of the points that divide nor upon compromises which are as easy as they are superficial and fragile. Unity must be the result of a true conversion of everyone, the result of mutual forgiveness, of theological dialogue and (communal) relations, of prayer and of complete docility to the action of the Holy Spirit, who is also the Spirit of reconciliation.
I would suggest a checklist for individuals and communities to judge if our conduct measures up:
- weekly individual prayer for Christian unity
- making friends and contacts with Christians of different traditions
- occasional visits to other churches
- more than occasional mention of the intention for Christian unity in liturgical prayer
- personal study from honest sources outside of one’s own tradition
This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.