|Coat of Arms|
January 23, 2011
Opening Greeting by Archbishop Chaput for Ecumenical Service
The following remarks were delivered by Archbishop Chaput for an ecumenical service, hosted by St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Denver, CO, in celebration of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
We’re very proud of this parish in the archdiocese because it embodies, in its daily life, what Catholic Christians mean by unity: unity of belief; diversity of experience and expression.
The Latin and Byzantine traditions that enrich each other at St. Elizabeth’s have equal beauty and equal antiquity. But precisely because of their differences, they feed the whole believing community. So it’s very fitting that our coming together in prayer tonight should happen here. And I’m grateful to Father Chrysostom for helping to make this service possible.
When this annual Week of Prayer began more than a century ago, the idea of Christian unity seemed remote. And of course, in some ways it still does. Christianity is rooted in an encounter with Jesus Christ. But understanding and applying that encounter to our lives has always led Christians to be a creedal community. What we claim to believe about God, Jesus Christ and meaning of the human person is the glue to our identity.
Obviously, and in a fundamental way, we’re also a biblical community. We’re also a sacramental and liturgical community. But the Nicene Creed expresses in a very important way what we believe and therefore who we are. This has consequences.
When Christians disagree about matters of doctrine, or authority, or the nature of the Church – these things matter because they involve the organizing convictions of the community. We can’t serve the task of unity by glossing over our differences; and of course, we serve our unity even less by trying to make the hard messages of the Gospel congenial to a world that doesn’t want to listen. Scripture tells us to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). I think that applies equally in our common witness to the culture around us, and also in our discussions as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Speaking the truth without love is a kind of belligerence. And claiming to love other people without speaking the truth to them is a kind of theft and cowardice.
Happily, and by the mercy of God, there’s one very big difference between tonight and the first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity more than 100 years ago. The difference is this: All of us are here, together, tonight in a spirit of respect and affection – a spirit that we all genuinely share; a spirit that our differences can’t diminish. We’re here not as members of separate ecclesial communities, but as believers in Jesus Christ, and therefore members of one community and one very large and sometimes very messy family in his name. But we’re one family. We do at least understand that we belong to the same family. And in the light of history where the Holy Spirit moves and works, that’s a blessing. So miracles can happen, and they do happen. And so it’s a privilege and a pleasure to be with you and to welcome you tonight.