When King Henry VIII of England broke apart the Catholic Church in his country, years of bloodshed followed. Today the Church honors the memory of forty of the martyrs who died for the faith between 1535 and 1679. They include lay men and women as well as priests and a total of twenty Jesuits, including Edmund Campion. As we pray for Pope Benedict’s monthly intentions—that all peoples may grow in harmony and peace through mutual understanding and respect, and for children and youth—let us reflect on part of what the Holy Father said when he visited Great Britain in 2010 and met with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.
The context in which dialogue takes place between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church has evolved in dramatic ways…. On the one hand, the surrounding culture is growing ever more distant from its Christian roots, despite a deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment. On the other hand, the increasingly multicultural dimension of society, particularly marked in this country, brings with it the opportunity to encounter other religions. For us Christians this opens up the possibility of exploring, together with members of other religious traditions, ways of bearing witness to the transcendent dimension of the human person and the universal call to holiness, leading to the practice of virtue in our personal and social lives. Ecumenical cooperation in this task remains essential, and will surely bear fruit in promoting peace and harmony in a world that so often seems at risk of fragmentation.
At the same time, we Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ, and to explore together a deeper understanding of the means he has placed at our disposal for attaining that salvation. God “wants all to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), and that truth is nothing other than Jesus Christ, eternal Son of the Father, who has reconciled all things in himself by the power of his Cross. In fidelity to the Lord’s will, as expressed in that passage from Saint Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, we recognize that the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth. Herein lies the dilemma facing all who are genuinely committed to the ecumenical journey.