Vatican II - Voice of The Church
Vatican II - Voice of The Church

Preface to the Christian Unity Section

The calling of the Council by Pope John XXIII on 25th January 1959, at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was very propitious. In his speech he invoked the saints "for a good beginning, continuation and happy outcome of these proposals for a great work, enlightenment, edification and happiness of all Christian people, for a renewed invitation to the faithful of the separated communities that they also may follow us amiably in this search for unity and grace."

Dennis Rudd's article Restoring Unity outlines the Catholic Church's commitment to Christian unity rooted in the teaching of Vatican II and re-confirmed in Pope John-Paul's 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint. He describes the basis of that commitment in the relevant documents of the Council and highlights the quest for unity around the elements of prayer, theological dialogue and local, grass-roots activity. His article concludes with an assessment of progress made and, from personal experience, attitudes which are an obstacle to further progress and require a process of conversion.

The articles by Butler, written in the years immediately following the Council, offer both a substantive commentary on the ecumenical teaching of the Council and shorter sketches on Anglican reactions and the problem of conversion in the light of the conciliar teaching on ecumenism within the context of the grace of salvation.

A fruit of the historic visit to Britain by Pope John-Paul II in 1982 was a continued commitment to the search for Christian unity. This was signified in his meeting with leaders of other churches and a moving service in Canterbury Cathedral. He signed the Common Declaration at Canterbury with the Anglican Archbishop, Robert Runcie, to commit to further theological dialogue through a renewed Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC II). In subsequent years this commission produced a number of agreed statements on Salvation and the Church, Church as Communion, Life in Christ (Morals, Communion and the Church), The Gift of Authority and Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. The latter was issued as recently as 2004.

The two articles by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, a former co-chairman of ARCIC II, provide further perspectives in the post-conciliar period. His 1978 address Christian Unity to the Synod of the Church of England opens with a description of the environment in which the ecumenical endeavour is situated which is still as relevant today as it was nearly 30 years ago. His article Signs of Hope reports on a visit to Rome of church leaders from Britain, one of the outcomes of the Pope's 1982 visit.

Fr. Robert Hamilton provides a useful introduction and resume of Pope-John Paul II's encyclical Ut Unum Sint. Thomas Ryan provides a series of thought provoking points in What Does it Mean to be Ecumenical? Sister Cecily Boulding's paper, presented at the 2002 symposium on Vatican II and Butler, provides an assessment of progress of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue.