Only God can achieve true unity in the Church and the world, bishop says

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

Bishop Steven Lopes / Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter

Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2021 / 11:01 am (CNA).

True unity comes from God and is not something created by man, the bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter stressed at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Steven Lopes, in his Sept. 14 keynote address to the audience of Catholics, said that both Catholics and Americans must be mindful of where unity comes from in order to attain true peace. God revealed Himself to humanity as “a communion of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” he said.

“The Father who sent his Son, the Word made flesh, and the Holy Spirit to save his people precisely by drawing them into communion with himself,” he said. At Pentecost, Jesus Christ is “made present and active,” he said, and through the baptized, Christ’s mission is carried out.

It is the sacrament of baptism, said Lopes, that “informs and secures all other forms of authentic unity and communication” with Christ.

And it is here where the Church must inform society, he added, particularly in the American vision of “E Pluribus Unum,” or “out of many, one.”

People of faith working in the “civil realm” are the ones that ask “hard and necessary questions about human dignity, the inherent goodness of the created order, the nature of the human person,” said Lopes.

“And without these questions, these annoying questions, political discourse devolves into empty slogans or worse, totalitarian imposition. We’ve seen that again and again.”

Lopes delivered his remarks at the 17th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering of Catholic clergy, leaders and public officials.

Scripture scholar Jeff Cavins also addressed the prayer breakfast on Tuesday, urging Catholics to integrate the Word of God into their daily lives.

“If we’re going to change America, I truly believe that we have to live as disciples,” Cavins said, urging attendees to fight for their faith. “I would encourage you to fight like the third monkey on the ramp to Noah’s Ark,” he quipped.

The event’s organizers also honored Jimmy Lai, an imprisoned pro-democracy advocate in Hong Kong, with the Christifidelis Laici Award, named after Pope John Paul II’s 1988 exhortation on the mission of the laity in the world.

In his keynote address on unity, Lopes suggested that his own diocese, the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, is an example of how unity works in the Church and in the world.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI created a new diocese in the United States and Canada for former Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. There are 40 parishes in the Ordinariate throughout the United States and Canada.

In the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, or “Anglican Ordinariate,” as is commonly known, Mass is celebrated according to a unique missal, and other Anglican customs are observed.

Lopes said his diocese is proof that unity with the Church does not mean that previous traditions must be abandoned.

“My little diocese exists because unity is not just important, because it is what the Lord himself prayed for on the night before he died,” he said. “So, our experience of bridging this new life in the Catholic Church can perhaps give some insight on how unity and diversity work.”

The bishop explained that “real unity” is “something more than the superficiality of a group of like-minded individuals acting in roughly the same way at approximately the same time.”

Humanity was made to be in union with others, explained the bishop.

“And, the Catholic would add, in baptism, we have received a vocation to make our Lord and God present in the world by manifesting the holiness of God who is One and Three,” he said.

Unity, explained Lopes, is also “magnanimous.”

Again drawing from the example of his diocese, he explained that even those who petitioned the Vatican for what would eventually become the Ordinariate “were surprised by the extent of Pope Benedict’s offer.”

“A diocese with its own way of celebrating Mass is hugely generous and sparked comment in some corners that the Pope was ‘bending over backwards’ to accommodate people who might as well be called apostate,” he said.

“The generosity of the gesture did not accord with a vision of the Church which would say: If you want to be in the Catholic Church, get in line with everyone else.”

This is false, said Lopes. He said that what the pope offered was not simply generosity, it was the “virtue of magnanimity.”

“No less a figure than Abraham Lincoln built his second inaugural address around this same virtue, because he too saw it as the key to national unity,” said Lopes. “Magnanimity is part of the glue that holds communities and societies together and fosters an enrichment of those communities by integrating new people,” both in the Church and in the United States.

“The American idea works because it is not an idea,” he said. “It is a civic virtue, disposition of soul requiring real conversion and real action to embrace the other as good because we embrace the other as an equal.”

“Only then can it be a unifying force, not just a blending of diverse and divergent bodies into exterior uniformity,” said Lopes.  Lincoln’s words are engraved on his memorial just a few blocks from here serve as a summons. They are not merely meant as nostalgia.” 


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1 Comment

  1. The CNA headline is misleading, again.

    Unity is intrinsic to the Eucharistic Church from day one, although this “unity in [of!] the Church” can be violated. On the other hand, unity in the world is the subject of the bishop’s comments. We do not build the Church as from disunited elements.

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