Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Latin America has become pluralistic with regard to religion. In most cities -- and the region is increasingly urbanized -- Protestant churches dot neighborhoods like little grocery stores and missionaries, both foreign and home grown, pace the streets inviting people to taste their spiritual food. There is little concern for ecumenism. Catholic pastors often see the Protestants as opportunists trying to steal their flock. Meanwhile, Protestant pastors criticize Catholicism for its many devotions that seem to impede the people’s acquaintance with the word of God. The situation defies Jesus’ prayer in the gospel today.
Jesus asks his Father to make all those who believe in him one in faith and charity. He has in mind all the churches that his disciples will establish. It is an ambitious request because different ways of thinking and different bonds of affection tend to draw people apart. We should not derive consolation from the fact that factions in all major religions match those of Christianity.
In 1995 Pope John Paul II wrote an extraordinary encyclical entitled with words taken from today’s gospel, That They May Be One. He said that it that as Vicar of Christ, he had an obligation to seek Christian unity. He further stated that although the truth could never be compromised to accommodate oneness, the Church’s visible form is not everywhere non-negotiable. After thirteen years without any significant realignment within Christianity, some might think that John Paul’s initiative has failed. But that might be short-sightedness. Individuals and communities from various branches of Christianity are working together more than a hundred years ago. Of course, further mutual understanding and cooperation are called for. Everywhere, including Latin America, we Christians must see such efforts as the will of the Lord.