"A lay Catholic perspective"

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The Coming Millenium

by Father Egbert Stang, omi


WE ARE VERY NEAR to the Jubilee Year 2000, which will also be the beginning of the third millennium of Christianity. The Holy Father says that the third millennium will be the Great Springtime of Christianity. In his apostolic letter Toward the Third Millennium the Pope gives top priority to Christian Unity. He gives all of us the simple steps we must take in order to arrive at this goal.

First, a commitment to repentance and conversion for a history of painfully wounding ecclesial communion. In the Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II, it states that persons on both sides are to blame. Such wounds openly contradict the will of Christ and are a cause of scandal to the world. These sins of the past still burden us and remain ever-present temptations. It is necessary to make amends for them, and earnestly to beseech Christ's prayer of forgiveness.

As we end the second millennium, the Church should invoke the Holy Spirit with increasing insistence, asking for the grace of Christian unity. This is crucial for our witnessing to the Gospel before the whole world. Since Vatican II local Churches and the Apostolic See have undertaken many ecumenical initiatives.

Hence, all Christians need to examine their consciences and promote fitting ecumenical initiatives, so we can celebrate the Great Jubilee by progressively overcoming the divisions of the second millennium. It is essential to continue the path of dialogue on doctrinal matters, but even more importantly to commit us to prayer for Christian unity. An ever-greater number of Christians must pray in Christ, as in John 17:21: "Father that they also may be one in us."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the key ingredients: a permanent renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation; conversion of the heart as the faithful try to live holier lives according to the Gospel; public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, for this is the soul of the whole ecumenical movement; fraternal knowledge of each other; ecumenical formation of priests and laity; dialogue among theologians and meetings among Christians of the different Churches and communities; and collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to humanity.

The reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only church of Christ transcends human powers and gifts. That is why we place all our hope in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.[1]

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 822.