CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Lunar New Year and Christian Unity

The Lunar New Year and the ecumenical movement have one thing in common; they both offer an opportunity to people who share a profound interest in the same bonding ring to patch up frays in the rope that binds them, reach out across gaps that may divide and be reconciled over upset apple carts.

The Lunar New Year is a cultural recognition of the damage that divided families do to the fabric of society and all cultures have festivals that place the family at the centre of attention.

Speaking to a Lutheran delegation from Finland at the Vatican on January 17, the day before the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis recalled St. Paul saying to the squabbling Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?”

He then said that today, this same question is addressed to each and every person who has been born into new life in the waters of baptism.

However, just as family life comes under new pressures as society changes and images of and expectations on families are revamped, so the challenge of Christian unity changes.

The pope told his guests at the Vatican, “At the present moment, the ecumenical path and relations among Christians are undergoing significant changes due primarily to the fact that we must profess our faith in the context of societies and cultures where reference to God, and everything that recalls the transcendent dimension of life, is always less present.”

Speaking at the opening of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2009, Father Andrew Chan, then dean of St. John’s Cathedral (now bishop of Kowloon North), pointed out that Jesus worried about unity among his disciples and so should we.

Just as moving towards greater unity in a family calls for understanding, which in turn often calls for a greater clarity in self-revelation to dispel fears of hidden agendas, ecumenism demands that Churches and individuals from various denominations be up-front about their fears, ambitions and hopes.

In this sense, the agenda of ecumenism has not changed a great deal since Vatican II.

At a meeting with Church leaders in June 1964, Archbishop Matthew Beovich, from Adelaide in South Australia, sought to allay fears, saying that the greatest demand of ecumenism on every Christian is to live a better life with greater honesty.

The late archbishop said that nothing is more likely to deepen divisions than Christians hiding from other Christians the true face of their Church. He described the first call of the ecumenical movement to all Christian Churches as being inner renewal, so that in much the same way as the members of any family, they can be ready to meet each other in a mood and frame of mind that desires reconciliation, unity and togetherness.

In fact, speaking in 1964, Archbishop Beovich heralded the words of Pope Francis in 2014 by stressing the need for the Church to be unified, not only to fulfill God’s will, but in order to speak coherently to the wider society, so that its message may be understood.

A fractured Church begs the question of how it can be the salt and light of the world and Pope Francis calls the soul of the ecumenical movement a spiritual process guided by the Holy Spirit.

 

May the Year of the Horse be marked by unity. JiM