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The Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and Benedict XVI, the Pope of Christian Unity
By Deacon Keith Fournier
January 3rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The Pope sees as his 'Impelling Duty' the rebuilding of the full and visible unity of the Church. His magisterium is characterized by orthodoxy, orthopraxy and the legitimate diversity of expression within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - On April 20, 2005 newly elected Pope Benedict XVI gave his first message at the end of a Mass he had concelebrated with the members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He signaled his mission:
"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. Luke 22: 32).
"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."
The authentic ecumenical mission, the full and visible unity of the Church, was at the heart of Blessed John Paul's pontificate - and is now at the heart of Pope Benedict's - precisely because it reflects Heart of the Lord. "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17: 20, 21)
In Catholic theology we teach what the early fathers, Saints and Councils throughout the ages have all affirmed; to belong to Jesus is to belong to His Body. Our membership in the Church is a participation in the life of God; what the Apostle Peter referred to as a "participation in the Divine nature". (2 Peter 1:4)
Catholics speak of our Christian friends in other Christian communities who have been validly baptized in accordance with a Trinitarian formula as already being in "imperfect communion" with the One Church. This is why Catholics do not "re-baptize" a Christian from another community who comes into the Catholic Church. We speak of them as coming into "full communion" because they are already joined to the one Church in an "imperfect" or incomplete communion.
The Church is not some "thing", outside of us, which we try to "fix" or have our "issues" with. The Church is not some human organization we created so that we could meet to study the Bible, support one another and do good works - as commendable as each of those endeavors may be. The Church is God's Plan for the whole human race. Jesus came to found that Church and begin the New Creation. It is a communion from above into which we enter. It is His Body. He is the Head and we are the members.
Through our Baptism the Church becomes our home, our mother, the place in which we now live our lives in Christ. To perceive, receive and to live this reality requires a continuing and dynamic conversion brought about by grace, which is mediated to us through the Sacraments and, most especially through our Eucharistic communion. We are sons and daughters of the Church now. In living our lives within her we are enlisted in the mission of carrying forward in time the continuing work of Jesus Christ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing several ancient patristic sources, states: "To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood." (#895)
This Church is both human and divine; thus her members still sin. Sometimes evil enters and rots her from within. Sadly, she has been divided, but that is not the Lord's Plan. She is the means through which all men and women are invited to participate in the life of God and find true unity. She is, as the fathers were fond of saying, "the world reconciled" and a seed of the Kingdom to come.
To this Church has been entrusted the Sacraments (Mysteries), the Word of God, and the gift of a Teaching Office - Magisterium - through which Jesus Christ continues to speak through the Holy Spirit. The Church is not an optional "extra" that we add on to our lives, she is our life and we live our lives now in Christ.
From Christ's wounded side, the Church was birthed at the tree of Calvary, the altar of the new world. Through faith we are invited into this mystery and by grace we come to more fully comprehend and live it as we respond to the ongoing call to conversion and newness of life.
Pope Benedict XVI sees as his 'Impelling Duty' the rebuilding of the full and visible unity of the One, Holy,Catholic and Apostolic Church. He is fulfilling that duty with prophetic courage. His teaching magisterium is characterized by orthodoxy (right teaching) and orthopraxy (right practice). However, it is also characterized by a recovery of the legitimate diversity of expression within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I believe that the erection of Ordinariates for Anglicans to come into the full communion of the Church - while maintaining aspects of their Anglican Patrimony - is only the beginning of the historic work of this Pope of Christian Unity. He needs our fervent prayers and our heartfelt support.
We have covered the movement of Anglican Clergy and lay faithful toward the safe harbor that is found in the Bark of Peter as their own Christian community has been torn asunder with a rejection of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It is this writers' long held conviction, as a "revert" to the Church myself, that the influx of other Christians into the Catholic Church is also a great gift to the Catholic Church, right when she needs it.
The teaching of the catholic Church is rooted in an ecclesiology of communion. I embrace the Catholic claim that the fullness of truth is found within the Catholic Church. It is precisely because I do, that I also carry a burden to see the prayer of Jesus recorded in St. John, Chapter 17, answered.
There is a connection. 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.
Let us take our lead, as these historic events unfold, from the clear teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These paragraphs are in the section entitled "Wounds to Unity":
"817 In fact, "in 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.
818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . .
"All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."
819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth" are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements."
"Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."
820 "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time." Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her.
"This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may know that you have sent me." The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit."
We welcome the erection of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter as a sign of the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Catholic Church in a new missionary age. We will closely and regularly cover this wonderful sign of the work of the Holy Spirit.
We believe the Ordinariates are a gift intended for the whole Church as she engages in the needed New Evangelization of all of her members. We also welcome these new Catholic brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ as a great resource for the whole Catholic Church as she embarks upon a new missionary age.
We ask our readers around the globe to pray for Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Pater, as he takes pastoral responsibility for the care of the faithful within its jurisdictional reach and its continued growth.
Finally, we express our deep gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ for the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, the Pope of Christian Unity.
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