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Archbishop: striving for Christian unity is not merely ‘an option’ for Catholics

Archbishop Bernard Longley (Mazur/

If you are not working for Christian unity “there is something missing” from your life as a Catholic, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham has said.

The archbishop was speaking at Northampton Cathedral at a service marking 50 years since the Second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio. The service, on Wednesday, came during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Archbishop Longley said: “For me it is authentically Catholic to work and pray for the Church’s unity – it is not an option and it does not undermine my Catholic identity. If I neglect to do this, or I am indifferent, there is something missing from my life and my journey of faith as a Catholic.”

During his address, which can be read in full here, the archbishop said Unitatis Redintegratio “was the first time that the Catholic Church had reflected theologically on the life and witness of other churches and ecclesial communities”. The impact of the document, he said, was to show Catholics that working with other Christians would no longer be regarded “as dangerous to their spiritual well-being or at least… a distraction from the Church’s true mission”.

The archbishop said the document was “only the beginning of our ecumenical pilgrimage”, and that 50 years on the goal of full unity “seems more remote”.

Concluding his address, the archbishop said: “As we look to the future one of the challenges we face as Churches together is not so much that the truth and love of God and the values offered by Christianity are being ignored or rejected, but that our own attempts to express and share our faith fail to move people sufficiently, especially when they see our divisions. Only by allowing ourselves to be transformed together can we hope to give a more credible witness to the Christ who sends us into the world and longs to walk beside us there.”