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Christian Unity... we’re closer than you think.

This is the week of prayer for Christian unity with several ecumenical prayer services around the Archdiocese earnestly praying that some day “we may all be one” as Christ has said in several biblical passages. I think most Catholics believe we will all be one when everyone else converts to Catholicism. Cynical? Perhaps, but after attending the annual three bishops day last Thursday, January 16, at St. Michael’s Retreat House, Lumsden, I’m thinking we’re well on the way to someday achieving that oneness.

Three Bishops Day recognizes the unique partnership of the Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic faiths with the Franciscans who together govern the Franciscan owned retreat house. The current Chair of the Board is retired Lutheran Pastor David Kaiser who moderated the panel discussion with Anglican Qu’Appelle Diocesan Bishop Rob Hardwick, Saskatchewan Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Cindy Halmarson, Archdiocesan Theologian and Ecumenical Officer Brett Salkeld who sat in for Archbishop Daniel Bohan who could not attend, and Friar Dennis Vavrek provincial of the Franciscans. There’s a separate story in the news section on this web page.

Sure, there remain issues that divide us but after listening to this panel some of those issues, to me anyway, don’t appear to be insurmountable. Take the issue of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Salkeld said that’s not as much an issue as it once was and the more difficult issue is recognizing the validity of ordination. The Catholic Church, officially, does not recognize ordination in other faiths, yet, Salkeld pointed out, that should a married priest/minister convert to Catholicism and wish to become a married Catholic priest, it can and has been done. So while officially ordination in other faiths is not recognized, practically, it is. Although during informal discussion at lunch, Vavrek noted the individual is “reordained”. But still.

Here’s another one; the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed all those theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church. There were lots of divisions in the Church before he did that and what he wanted, the panellists said, was discussion, not separation. Halmarson noted there was no debate, they didn’t talk and said all kinds of nasty things about each other. Salkeld agreed and said since discussions between Lutherans and Catholics began about fifty years ago there has been “remarkable” agreement and progress. “For 450 years we didn’t talk with each other.” If we had discussed those issues the Reformation may not have occurred.

As Vavrek said in his presentation, “We’re not afraid of each other anymore.”