Where is Prayer for Christian Unity in Our Parishes? | James Likoudis | HPR
Every post-conciliar Pope has emphasized, with Vatican II, that ecumenism is a necessary aspect of the Church’s mission, and one involving the effort of all the faithful, clergy, and laity alike.
It was once quite common for many Catholic parishes to celebrate the week of January 18-25 (from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome to the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul) for fervent prayers to God for the Unity of Christians separated from the visible Unity of the Catholic Church. There were also fervent prayers for lapsed Catholics and for the conversion of Jews to the Christian Faith. There is no question that, in the last four decades, post-conciliar, doctrinal, and liturgical disorders, together with the spread of religious indifferentism, have resulted in the weakening, or actual loss, of Catholic identity among many professed Catholics who no longer express concern or care for the salvation of others. The grave error that has spread is that it makes no difference whether a person is an actual member of the Catholic Church or not, as long as he is sincere in his particular belief.
All this has occurred despite the Second Vatican Council’s insistence that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only” and exhorting every Catholic to pray for an end to the historical divisions among Christians which “contradict the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature.” (Decree on Ecumenism §1). Catholics are reminded further that:
Our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or communities, and Churches, are not blessed with that Unity which Jesus wished to bestow on all those who to whom he has given new birth into one body, and whom he has quickened to newness of life—that Unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the One Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God … To attain that fullness of Unity which Jesus Christ desires, the Sacred Council exhorts all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism (Ibid., §3 and 4).
From the days of Blessed Pope Pius IX in the 19th century, the Popes have attempted to reach out, with great charity, to those “other sheep” separated from the One Flock committed to Peter, Chief of the Apostles.