Papa Luciani on Christian Unity

I want to thank Lori Pieper for her translation of a pastoral letter Papa Luciani wrote back in 1964 when he was bishop of Vittorio Veneto. I have taken an excerpt from it below. For more, log on to:

Dearest people of the diocese,

As he went to the Holy Land, Paul VI, the Pope who is growing dearer every day to both Catholics and non-Catholics, carried in his heart one great hope; that all Christian churches might become united again.

On January 3, he said to the people of Britian: “We are living in a time in which the extraordinary opportunity is offered to us to see the old controversies starting to go towards a solution and old wounds being put aside. It is not too late to repent of the lack of charity that we have shown one another. Great problems must still be resolved, many differences still must be overcome. But we are beginning our task with a renewed spirit, knowing that a spirit of understanding and good will exists on both sides. Starting from different viewpoints we can littleby little approach each other and become one, at the hour chosen by God and according to his will.”

…… I  heartedly recommend the so-called “Octave of Prayer” for unity….. a pious practice encouraged by St.Pius X, by Benedict XV, Pius XI and John XXIII; it was founded in 1908 by the American Paul James Wattson, who was a Protestant pastor then a Catholic priest…..

Watson, though a Protestant, reasoned rightly when he set forth two principles. 1) Union of separated churches, while impossible to human beings, is completely possible to God; 2) For Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox to pray together for the same end is already a step to unity.

One day, when he was still an Episcopalian pastor, Wattson preached a sermon at a synod. Our Protestant church, he said “is sick from lack of unity; it is similar to the poor cripple whose parents deposited him every day at the gate of the temple in Jerusalem, so he could ask for alms (Acts 3: 1-11). How was the crippled man cured? By turning to St. Peter. So we Protestants will be able to be cured and find salvation, by turning to the Catholic unity personified by Peter and his successors.”

Yes, it is by turning to Peter that we find our unity. He confirms his brethren, and unifies the Church.

Those of us old enough to recall the Second Vatican Council know how important and in the forefront was the quest for Christian unity. We were looking outside ourselves in those years, looking outward toward the world and renewing ourselves in the process.

Pope John Paul I would have pursued, I believe,  an ecumenical thrust; given his warmth and pastoral character, coupled with clarity of doctrine and firmness of faith, much would have been accomplished.

As we know, Pope John Paul II made reaching out to the Orthodox Church a priority of his papacy.  He also strove to heal the age old wounds that existed between the Church and our Jewish brothers and sisters. God bless him!

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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