The journey towards unity

The message of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

The apostolic visit of Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom (September 16-19) “is extremely significant for ecumenical relations. It will confirm the outcome of the close contacts between Catholics and Christians from all denominations over the years and will serve to spread information on the progress and difficulties in the quest for Christian unity”. Thus states a message by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the apostolic visitation of Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom. (Dedicated section on the Papal visit on:, in English and Italian).Close bonds. “Although this is the first state visit of a Pope to Great Britain, it recalls Pope John Paul II’s pastoral visit in 1982”, states the message of the Pontifical Council. “On that occasion the Pope prayed with the Archbishop of Canterbury and issued a joint declaration inaugurating the second phase of official dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church. Since then, relations between Anglicans and Catholics have been characterized by growing warmth and friendship”. Today many local communities share moments of prayer and practical initiatives (for charity and pastoral care)”. “There are regular and successful meetings between Catholic and Anglican bishops”. The papal visit “will strongly affirm the close bonds” between the two church bodies, and “underline our common faith and mission”. However, “past and present difficulties in Anglican-Catholic relations are acknowledged. “The tragic divisions of the Reformation will resonate mostly when the Pope is in Westminster Hall, where St. Thomas More was tried for his loyalty to the See of Rome”. Difficulties. Recent “controversies within the Anglican Community sparked difficulties in ecumenical relations, which in part have prompted His Holiness’ offer of the Anglican Ordinariate (Anglicanorum Coetibus)”. Moreover, “these issues must be seen “in the broader context of the common witness of Roman Catholics and Anglicans. This witness will be most profoundly symbolized and realized when Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury meet at Lambeth Palace and then lead together the prayer in Westminster Abbey before the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, who is worshipped by both confessions”. The celebration in Westminster Abbey will involve representatives of Christian denominations in England, Scotland and Wales. This event “complements the previous one in Westminster Hall, when Pope Benedict will speak of the contribution of faith to individuals and to society as a whole. In Westminster Abbey Christian communities in the United Kingdom will be encouraged to work and pray together to ensure that the Christian message is proclaimed with conviction, so that faith may play a creative role across British society”.A positive moment. For the Pontifical Council the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman is “a positive moment for ecumenical relations, particularly those with the Church of England”. In his path of conversion Cardinal Newman undertook his personal itinerary towards the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church. However “he was always grateful to the Church of England, which he described as ‘the instrument of God’s providence’ in his life. Newman also acknowledged the profound influence of Anglican theologians and clergymen on his spiritual journey”. In the close of his “Apologia”, Card. Newman said that Catholics in England must have the attitude of “assisting and sustaining the Church of England and must work together to preach Christian principles and doctrines'”. This message “is fully valid now that Anglican and Catholics acknowledge the need for mutual support and cooperation in proclaiming the Gospel across contemporary – complex – society”. In his zealous quest for the truth Cardinal Newman was guided “by solid Church witness, which at times was proclaimed to the price of heavy sacrifice and regardless of trends and convenience”. “His example encourages Christians of all traditions to be involved today with courage, integrity and faithfulness to the Gospel in building a society that welcomes, nourishes and promotes all its members”. Even though he is venerated by the Catholic community in particular, Cardinal Newman represents the great tradition of faith, intellectual rigor, and imagination that are the inheritance of all the British people”. The themes of the apostolic visit of the Holy Father “hold special importance for all the members of British society”. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity thus expressed hope “that the deepest and truest aspects of the visit will not be obscured by themes which are unrelated to the true purpose of the Papal visit”.

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