Mgr Keith Newton writes: On the night that our Lord was betrayed, in the upper room, he prayed that his followers should all be one (cf. John 17:21). That all Christians are not united is a source of great scandal - because it limits and distorts the work of evangelisation, to which all Christ’s faithful are called.
In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we have the opportunity to rekindle our desire for the full, visible unity of all Christians, and to assess once more the importance of Christ’s call – that all may be one.
Pope Benedict, in his response to Anglicans seeking fullness of communion with the Catholic Church, has shown us how this hope can be realised – in and through the unifying office of the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St Peter. He is truly the Pope of Christian Unity, because he shows that in the one Body of Christ we do not need to be divided to cherish our richly different traditions and identities, and that the Catholic Church is truly ready and able to manifest the unity of the Universal Church within its own life.
The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham exists, not as a museum for the Anglican patrimony, but as an expression of how our vibrant and living tradition flourishes in, and because of, communion with the See of Peter. We are not a ‘structural solution’ to Anglican problems, but a vehicle of evangelisation and mission for the whole Church, contributing the gifts and treasures of our Anglican heritage alongside those of other Catholics, with whom we are now united.
Those who share the faith of the Catholic Church, but not the beauty of communion with her, must see in us the deep impression that our new relationship with Christ makes, so that they might find the strength to answer his call to fullness of unity in the Church with the successor of Peter, and enjoy the fullness of communion and peace in which we now share.
Thus we have been commissioned by the Holy Father to be those members of the Catholic Church who give her a special awareness of Anglican life and tradition from the inside, as she reaches out to the Anglican Communion to build the ecumenical work of common cause and proclamation in the world, towards the complete reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion that must come, because our Lord has prayed for it.
For many of us, this past year has seen relationships strained as we have moved into the Catholic Church, whilst close friends and colleagues remain in a position where communion with the Catholic Church is for the moment partial. As we journey deeper into communion with Christ, though, we move into a more profound relationship – not just with him, but with all those with whom we share the sacrament of baptism.
So let this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity be a time of intensified prayer for the unity of all Christ’s faithful, and let it be for us a time for renewed vigour for the work of Christian unity, of which the Ordinariate is a humble fruit.
As part of that, I commend to you Fr Paul Couturier’s prayer resources for the Week of Prayer produced by the Catholic League (www.unitas.org.uk), who have supported the Ordinariate from the outset and who – with us – share a vision for truth and unity.
The Right Reverend Monsignor Keith Newton
Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham