Rorate Caeli

Benedict XVI: "We are still far from that unity for which Christ prayed"

Nearly a week old, but still worth discussing

From Benedict XVI's Homily at the closing Vespers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, January 25, 2011:
The Apostles’ teaching, brotherly communion, the breaking of the bread and prayers are the practical forms of the life of Jerusalem’s first Christian community, gathered together by the action of the Holy Spirit, but at the same time constitute the essential features of all Christian communities, of every epoch and of every place. In other words we could say that they also represent the fundamental dimensions of unity of the visible Body of the Church.
We must be grateful because in recent decades the ecumenical movement, “fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 1), has taken significant steps forward, which have made it possible to reach an encouraging convergence and consensus on various points, developing relations of esteem and reciprocal respect between the Churches and the ecclesial Communities, as well as practical collaboration in facing the challenges of the contemporary world.
However we know well that we are still far from that unity for which Christ prayed and which we find reflected in that portrait of the first community of Jerusalem.

The unity to which Christ, through his Spirit, calls the Church is not only brought about at the level of organizational structures but at a far deeper level, acquires the form of unity expressed “in the confession of one faith, in the common celebration of divine worship, and in the fraternal harmony of the family of God” (ibid., n. 2).

The search for the re-establishment of unity among the divided Christians cannot therefore be reduced to recognition of the reciprocal differences and the achievement of a peaceful coexistence: what we yearn for is that unity for which Christ himself prayed and which, by its nature is expressed in the communion of faith, of the sacraments, of the ministry.

The journey towards this unity must be perceived as a moral imperative, the answer to a precise call of the Lord. For this reason it is necessary not to give in to the temptation of resignation or pessimism, which is lack of trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is our duty to continue enthusiastically on our way towards this goal with a strict and serious dialogue in order to deepen the common theological, liturgical and spiritual patrimony; with reciprocal knowledge, with the ecumenical formation of the new generations and, especially, with conversion of heart and with prayer.

Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council declared, this “holy objective — the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ — transcends human powers and gifts. It therefore places its hope entirely in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit” (ibid., n. 24).


  1. We are far from that unity since true ecumenism is rooted in prayer. Holy Father Benedict is right in describing that first church in Jerusalem. In the Philippines, our ecumenism barely extends beyond social, economic and political issues. Real ecumenism is when all Christians join for prayer and be closer to Christ. Of course there will be differences still and we should be aware of that. However the first step in closing that separation is through prayer.

    In that sense Pope Benedict's Anglicanorum Coetibus is prophetic for it embodies what real ecumenism is. Anglicans who accepted Catholic truth and are in the process of accepting it have largely if not closed the gap of separation, even as Anglicans and this was done for centuries via prayers, especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary. All that was left is for the Catholic Church to provide the bridge. Now they have started to cross.

  2. Real ecumenism is when all Christians join for prayer and be closer to Christ.

    Real ecumenism is when all Christians are gathered together into the one sheepfold, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church headed by Christ's Vicar, the Successor of St. Peter.

  3. Indeed! The NO liturgy in the common vernacular tongue has totally divided the church since the early seventies and it continus to exacerbate. Collegiality has competely divided the collee of bishops into an individualistic institution thatconsiders the pope a brother bishop primus inter pares. Interreligious and ecumenical politics have misled modern catholics into believing that ecelecticism is fine - Chicago Cathedral for example can have yoga classes in it and the pope can hold subversive meetings with false religions validating them as organisations included in God's plan of peace on Earth. No wonder the church of Christ is so chaotic and disorientated to day - little wonder!

  4. "convergence"

    According to Teillard de Chardin.....

  5. Prior to Vatican II, in the 2000 year history of the Church, did any Popes write like this?

  6. John L10:20 PM

    'In recent decades the ecumenical movement, “fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 1), has taken significant steps forward.'

    In recent decades the Catholic Church has seen by far the greatest loss of her faithful to other Christian groups in her history, much greater than that at the time of the Reformation; consider the spread of Protestantism in Latin America. This does not look like a step forward to me. What is more, this loss is partially due to Catholic embrace the ecumenical movement.

    How long will we have to put up with this self-deluding rubbish?

  7. Jub Alabastro11:49 PM

    The crucial question really is how will the unity which Christ prayed and portrayed in Acts 2:42 be achieved?

  8. Anonymous12:58 AM

    MORTALIUM ANIMOS - ON RELIGIOUS UNITY - ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI JANUARY 6, 1928 'And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: "That they all may be one.... And there shall be one fold and one shepherd,"[14] with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment.'


  9. M. A.1:18 AM

    "Real ecumenism is when...."

    Please forgive the teacher in me, but I myself can still remember Sr. Regina correcting us by telling the class that a noun can never be a 'when'.


  10. rodrigo2:17 AM

    Ben Vallejo,

    You say that

    real ecumenism is when all Christians join for prayer and be closer to Christ. Of course there will be differences still and we should be aware of that. However the first step in closing that separation is through prayer.

    Is it your contention that Roman pontiffs of the past few centuries were acting as impediments to unity when they strictly prohibited such communicatio in sacris (with very few exceptions allowed)?

  11. Anonymous2:51 AM

    I'm surprised that no one has commented on the vestments in the picture. The pope is wearing a cope frequently worn by John Paul II and Guido Marini is wearing a Piero Marini surplice.

  12. Ben G4:13 AM

    As Louis pointed out, the Holy Father is wrong when he says, "However we know well that we are still far from that unity for which Christ prayed and which we find reflected in that portrait of the first community of Jerusalem."

    This statement exemplifies the ecclesiological confusion that underlies false ecumenism. The Catholic Church does not lack unity at all, as Benedict says ("WE are still far from unity"). The Church is, rather, unified in her very essence, since her unity comes from her union with Christ her head. Since Christ is one, His Church is always one. Just because various Protestant denominations and Orthodox churches are separated from the Catholic Church doesn't mean that we lack unity--they are the ones who lack unity.

    This is just like a branch being cut off a tree--the branch is separated from unity with the tree, but the tree remains unified in itself.

    His statement that "The journey towards this unity must be perceived as a moral imperative" has the same underlying ambiguity, because it implies that we are also on a journey towards unity. We already have unity!

  13. rodrigo10:28 AM

    To be fair to the Holy Father, Ben G, one should perhaps read these remarks in conjunction with those made at the ecumenical meeting in Cologne during WYD XX:

    We all know there are numerous models of unity and you know that the Catholic Church also has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various Documents. This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost; the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world.

    Of course, that address was not without its own surprising passages:

    On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one's own faith history. Absolutely not!

  14. oremusrob3:03 PM

    So what ever happened to Leo XIII's Satis Cognitum, Pius XI's Mortalium Animos and Pius XII's Huamani Generis?

    Are these no longer authoritative? If not, when did their authority terminate, how, and why?

    If they are still authoritative, how do we reconcile the post-1964 ecumenism with them?

  15. You will find the reason why prayer is needed first before unity in the Decrees of SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL and the norms for ecumenism which applied the decree on ecumenism in the Vatican website.

    Catholics are OBLIGED to accept the decrees of this ecumenical council as binding. The Pope has and so must we.

  16. Johannes3:55 PM

    It is strange. Jordanes defends the rights and place of the bishop of Rome - Ben Vallejo replies against him upon the authority of the bishop of Rome.

    I shall only note the what should be now exceeding well known truth that Vatican II was a self-styled "pastoral" Council. There are no dogmas or authoritative canons that Christians "must" accept - least of all because the bishop of Rome accepts them. The bishops of Rome historically have "accepted" things that no one could be found to defend. The private choices and decisions of a bishop of Rome are not - not - infallible.


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