Day 3: Prayer for Christian Unity

Jan 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

In his work Called to Communion (Ignatius: 1991. German title: Zur Gemeinschaft gerufen), then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

Anyone who becomes acquainted with [the Church] as she lives out her life sees immediately that the ancient Church never consisted in a static juxtaposition of local Churches.  Catholicity, concretely realized in many forms, belongs to her essence from the very outset.  In the apostolic period it is above all the figure of the apostle itself that stands outside the scope of the local principle.  The apostle is not the bishop of a community but rather a missionary for the whole Church.  The figure of the apostle is the strongest refutation of every purely local conception of the Church.  He expresses in his person the universal Church; he is her representative, and no local Church can claim him for herself alone.   Paul carried out this function of unity by means of his letters and a network of messengers.  These letters are an exercise of his catholic ministry of unity, which can be accounted for only by the apostle’s authority in the Church universal. (P.83.)

Heavenly Father, may we become united and at peace with our Christian brothers and sisters through a better understanding of the ministries of the Apostles, bishops and fathers of the early Church.  We pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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  1. I read this very passage last night. Ratzinger goes on to describe how this ‘catholicity’ manifested itself in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Church:

    Whoever belongs to one local Church belongs to all. The consciousness of this fact gave rise to the institution of letters of communication, which were termed litterae communicatoriae, tesserae, symbola, litterae pacis or the like, and which served to secure the unity of communion and to draw clear boundaries over against the pretensions of false communions. Whenever a Christian went on a journey, he carried such a proof of membership; with it he would find lodging in every Christian community around the world and, as the center of this hospitality, communion in the Body of the Lord. By means of these letters of peace, the Christian was truly at home everywhere. In order for the system to function, the bishops for their part had to keep up-to-date lists of the more important Churches around the world. . . . Here we see a very concrete way in which the bishop is the ligature of catholicity. He keeps his Church connected with the others and thus embodies the apostolic and, therefore, the catholic element of the Church. This fact is expressed in his very consecration: no community can simply give itself its own bishop. Such a radical embedding in the local is incompatible with the principle of apostolicity and, hence, of universality. A deeper reality is indicated here: faith is not something we have produced ourselves but something we again and again receive from an outside source.”

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