Catholic Online) - Toward the end of his historic visit to the United Kingdom where he presided over the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, an Anglican convert who prayed for the reunion of the Anglican communion with Rome, Pope Benedict XVI gathered with all of the Bishops. At the end of the address he spoke these words:
"I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished."
Pope Benedict's use of the expression "prophetic gesture" was no accident. The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady Walsingham, placed under the Patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman in the United Kingdom is only the beginning of a prophetic chapter in Church history. Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity. It was no accident that the seed of the healing of the divisions in the Body of Christ began in the land of John Henry Cardinal Newman. He prayed for this day. It is no accident that the Pope of Christian unity raised him to the altars. It was another prophetic act.
To be Catholic is to enter into the prayer of Jesus for the Unity of His Church. (John 17) In Pope Benedict XVI's first Papal message he signaled his commitment to this unity: "Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Lk 22: 32).
He continued, "With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty."
Benedict XVI has placed the commitment to the full communion of the Church at the forefront of his Papacy. This is evident in his love, respect and repeated overtures toward our Orthodox brethren, whom we recognize as a Church and whose priesthood and Sacraments we also recognize.However, this love is also evident in his outreach to the separated Christians of the Reformation communities of the West, beginning with the members of the Anglican community, who are seeking a place within the full communion of the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus allows for "groups of Anglicans" to come into full communion through a personal ordinariate while retaining elements of their Anglican patrimony, thus enhancing the legitimate diversity of the one Church within an uncompromised committment to orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
Into a world that is fractured, divided, wounded, filled with "sides" and "camps" at enmity with one another, the Church is called to proclaim, by both word and deed, the unifying love of a living God. The heart of the "Gospel" is the message that in and through Jesus Christ, authentic unity with God - and through Him, in the Spirit, with one another- is not only possible but is the plan of God for the entire human race. The Church is the way. It was not the Lord's plan that she be divided. It is His Plan that she be restored to full communion.
As we witness Church history unfolding let us take our lead from the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These paragraphs are in the section entitled "Wounds to Unity": "[I]n this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame."
"The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism - do not occur without human sin: Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers...