Suddenly Something Remarkable is Happening in Ecumenism

Nicky Gumbel interviews Fr. Cantalamessa
Photo credit: @alphacourse

Suddenly Something Remarkable is Happening in Ecumenism


Be honest: do you believe that Christian unity is possible?

Do you really believe it is possible? Like that it is something we might see in our lifetime?

Last week I was at an amazing conference focused on evangelization and Christian unity. Drawing 6,500 participants from across the globe and from different Christian traditions, Alpha Global Week in London was like a bomb of grace.

There were world class speakers like Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the man who preaches to the pope.

There were interviews with England’s key Christian leaders, including Cardinal Vincent of Westminister and Bishop Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican church.

There were many moments of prayer. One that stands out most notably was a moment where the host Nicky Gumbel spoke on division among Christians being a barrier to the evangelization of the world. He then repented of any personal offences he committed against other Christians and invited us to kneel with him in repentance for anything any of us has done to obstruct the cause of unity in the Church. 

6,500 people knelt and asked God’s forgiveness. We prayed that Jesus’ prayer might be accomplished, that we might again be one.

It was a profound experience, one that filled me with hope.

Not so long ago, if I’m to be completely honest, my position toward Christians of other traditions was polite, but guarded. Of course I knew that all Catholics are called to pray for Christian unity, but I wasn’t exactly going out of my way to make friends with Protestants or go to their events.

But I’ll tell you that my attitude has changed dramatically, and it’s due to what I’ve witnessed in terms of ecumenical efforts made by Protestants.

I’m seeing Protestants go out of their way to invite Catholics to their events, like this one. I see them going out of their way to celebrate the Catholics who show up. And I see them going out of their way to make sure to hear the Catholic speakers. 

It’s very moving to see to see, and it challenges me to ask: are we Catholics doing anything close to this?

Are we inviting Protestant speakers and musicians to our conferences? Are we acknowledging and applauding Protestants attendees at our events? What practical thing is the average Catholic doing to contribute to ecumenism?

It’s humbling for me to say that in my experience, Protestants are leading the way in this area. God bless them for that!

When we spend more time together we realize the truth in Pope John XXIII’s words, that “what unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us.” Yes there are differences in our understanding that are important and not to be whisked away. But we are all proclaiming the same Jesus as Lord and Saviour! We worship the very same Holy Trinity as our God!

In Fr. Raneiro’s talk he spoke of Christian groups moving closer together (the video is available here).

“A tectonic movement contrary to the one which drew the present continents apart from one another is taking place spiritually among us. Christians ‘continents’, once very distant and without communication between them, are coming together again.”

How can you and I participate in this “movement”? What will you do?

One of the things I’d like to do is try to start an ecumenical softball league in my home town of North York. I picture teams of young adults from different churches coming together in sport, praying and singing hymns of praise before getting down to some good clean fun.

Do you think anyone will come?

“The most concrete steps toward unity, therefore, are not those that are made around a table or in joint declarations (even though these are all important and indispensable); they are the ones made when believers and especially leaders of different denominations, in spite of all their differences, meet together to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus, to share their charisms and recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ." (ibid)    

I don’t know what things will look like when all Christians are unified as one once more. It’s not my job to know. But I know the concrete steps I can take right now, and those are steps of friendship.

What steps will you take?

Related: 5 Things I Love about Working with Protestants

Be honest: do you believe that Christian unity is possible? — Josh Canning

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