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Continuing and deepening dialogue

77 We can now ask how much further we must travel untilthat blessed day when full unity in faith will be attained and we can celebratetogether in peace the Holy Eucharist of the Lord. The greater mutualunderstanding and the doctrinal convergences already achieved between us, whichhave resulted in an affective and effective growth of communion, cannot sufficefor the conscience of Christians who profess that the Church is one, holy,catholic and apostolic. The ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement is tore-establish full visible unity among all the baptized.

In view of this goal, all the results so far attained are but one stage ofthe journey, however promising and positive.

78 In the ecumenical movement, it is not only theCatholic Church and the Orthodox Churches which hold to this demanding conceptof the unity willed by God. The orientation towards such unity is alsoexpressed by others.129

Ecumenism implies that the Christian communities should help one another sothat there may be truly present in them the full content and all therequirements of "the heritage handed down by the Apostles".130Without this, full communion will never be possible. This mutual help in thesearch for truth is a sublime form of evangelical charity.

The documents of the many International Mixed Commissions of dialogue haveexpressed this commitment to seeking unity. On the basis of a certainfundamental doctrinal unity, these texts discuss Baptism, Eucharist, ministryand authority.

From this basic but partial unity it is now necessary to advance towards thevisible unity which is required and sufficient and which is manifested in areal and concrete way, so that the Churches may truly become a sign of thatfull communion in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which will beexpressed in the common celebration of the Eucharist.

This journey towards the necessary and sufficient visible unity, in thecommunion of the one Church willed by Christ, continues to require patient andcourageous efforts. In this process, one must not impose any burden beyond thatwhich is strictly necessary (cf. Acts
Ac 15,28).

79 It is already possible to identify the areas in needof fuller study before a true consensus of faith can be achieved: 1) therelationship between Sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters offaith, and Sacred Tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the Wordof God; 2) the Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, anoffering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence ofChrist and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit; 3) Ordination, as aSacrament, to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate anddiaconate; 4) the Magisterium of the Church, entrusted to the Pope and theBishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and an authorityexercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith; 5) theVirgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother whointercedes for Christ's disciples and for all humanity.

In this courageous journey towards unity, the transparency and the prudenceof faith require us to avoid both false irenicism and indifference to theChurch's ordinances.131 Conversely, that same transparency and prudenceurge us to reject a halfhearted commitment to unity and, even more, aprejudicial opposition or a defeatism which tends to see everything in negativeterms.

To uphold a vision of unity which takes account of all the demands ofrevealed truth does not mean to put a brake on the ecumenicalmovement.132 On the contrary, it means preventing it from settling forapparent solutions which would lead to no firm and solid results.133The obligation to respect the truth is absolute. Is this not the law of theGospel?

Reception of the results already achieved

80 While dialogue continues on new subjects or developsat deeper levels, a new task lies before us: that of receiving the resultsalready achieved. These cannot remain the statements of bilateral commissionsbut must become a common heritage. For this to come about and for the bonds ofcommunion to be thus strengthened, a serious examination needs to be made,which, by different ways and means and at various levels of responsibility,must involve the whole People of God. We are in fact dealing with issues whichfrequently are matters of faith, and these require universal consent, extendingfrom the Bishops to the lay faithful, all of whom have received the anointingof the Holy Spirit.134 It is the same Spirit who assists theMagisterium and awakens the sensus fidei.

Consequently, for the outcome of dialogue to be received, there is needed abroad and precise critical process which analyzes the results and rigorouslytests their consistency with the Tradition of faith received from the Apostlesand lived out in the community of believers gathered around the Bishop, theirlegitimate Pastor.

81 This process, which must be carried forward withprudence and in a spirit of faith, will be assisted by the Holy Spirit. If itis to be successful, its results must be made known in appropriate ways bycompetent persons. Significant in this regard is the contribution whichtheologians and faculties of theology are called to make by exercising theircharism in the Church. It is also clear that ecumenical commissions have veryspecific responsibilities and tasks in this regard.

The whole process is followed and encouraged by the Bishops and the HolySee. The Church's teaching authority is responsible for expressing a definitivejudgment.

In all this, it will be of great help methodologically to keep carefully inmind the distinction between the deposit of faith and the formulation in whichit is expressed, as Pope John XXIII recommended in his opening address at theSecond Vatican Council.135

Continuing spiritual ecumenism and bearing witness to holiness

82 It is understandable how the seriousness of thecommitment to ecumenism presents a deep challenge to the Catholic faithful. TheSpirit calls them to make a serious examination of conscience. The CatholicChurch must enter into what might be called a "dialogue ofconversion", which constitutes the spiritual foundation of ecumenicaldialogue. In this dialogue, which takes place before God, each individual mustrecognize his own faults, confess his sins and place himself in the hands ofthe One who is our Intercessor before the Father, Jesus Christ.

Certainly, in this attitude of conversion to the will of the Father and, atthe same time, of repentance and absolute trust in the reconciling power of thetruth which is Christ, we will find the strength needed to bring to asuccessful conclusion the long and arduous pilgrimage of ecumenism. The"dialogue of conversion" with the Father on the part of eachCommunity, with the full acceptance of all that it demands, is the basis offraternal relations which will be something more than a mere cordialunderstanding or external sociability. The bonds of fraternal koinoniamust be forged before God and in Christ Jesus.

Only the act of placing ourselves before God can offer a solid basis forthat conversion of individual Christians and for that constant reform of theChurch, insofar as she is also a human and earthly institution,136which represent the preconditions for all ecumenical commitment. One of thefirst steps in ecumenical dialogue is the effort to draw the ChristianCommunities into this completely interior spiritual space in which Christ, bythe power of the Spirit, leads them all, without exception, to examinethemselves before the Father and to ask themselves whether they have beenfaithful to his plan for the Church.

83 I have mentioned the will of the Father and thespiritual space in which each community hears the call to overcome theobstacles to unity. All Christian Communities know that, thanks to the powergiven by the Spirit, obeying that will and overcoming those obstacles are notbeyond their reach. All of them in fact have martyrs for the Christianfaith.137 Despite the tragedy of our divisions, these brothers andsisters have preserved an attachment to Christ and to the Father so radical andabsolute as to lead even to the shedding of blood. But is not this sameattachment at the heart of what I have called a "dialogue ofconversion"? Is it not precisely this dialogue which clearly shows theneed for an ever more profound experience of the truth if full communion is tobe attained?

84 In a theocentric vision, we Christians already have acommon Martyrology. This also includes the martyrs of our own century,more numerous than one might think, and it shows how, at a profound level, Godpreserves communion among the baptized in the supreme demand of faith, manifestedin the sacrifice of life itself.138 The fact that one can die for thefaith shows that other demands of the faith can also be met. I have alreadyremarked, and with deep joy, how an imperfect but real communion is preservedand is growing at many levels of ecclesial life. I now add that this communionis already perfect in what we all consider the highest point of the life ofgrace, martyria unto death, the truest communion possible with Christwho shed his Blood, and by that sacrifice brings near those who once were faroff (cf. Eph Ep 2,13).

While for all Christian communities the martyrs are the proof of the powerof grace, they are not the only ones to bear witness to that power. Albeit inan invisible way, the communion between our Communities, even if stillincomplete, is truly and solidly grounded in the full communion of theSaintsmthose who, at the end of a life faithful to grace, are in communion withChrist in glory. These Saints come from all the Churches and EcclesialCommunities which gave them entrance into the communion of salvation.

When we speak of a common heritage, we must acknowledge as part of it notonly the institutions, rites, means of salvation and the traditions which allthe communities have preserved and by which they have been shaped, but firstand foremost this reality of holiness.139

In the radiance of the "heritage of the saints" belonging to allCommunities, the "dialogue of conversion" towards full and visibleunity thus appears as a source of hope. This universal presence of the Saintsis in fact a proof of the transcendent power of the Spirit. It is the sign andproof of God's victory over the forces of evil which divide humanity. As theliturgies sing: "You are glorified in your Saints, for their glory is thecrowning of your gifts".140

Where there is a sincere desire to follow Christ, the Spirit is often ableto pour out his grace in extraordinary ways. The experience of ecumenism hasenabled us to understand this better. If, in the interior spiritual spacedescribed above, Communities are able truly to "be converted" to thequest for full and visible communion, God will do for them what he did fortheir Saints. He will overcome the obstacles inherited from the past and willlead Communities along his paths to where he wills: to the visible koinonia whichis both praise of his glory and service of his plan of salvation.

85 Since God in his infinite mercy can always bring goodeven out of situations which are an offence to his plan, we can discover thatthe Spirit has allowed conflicts to serve in some circumstances to makeexplicit certain aspects of the Christian vocation, as happens in the lives ofthe Saints. In spite of fragmentation, which is an evil from which we need tobe healed, there has resulted a kind of rich bestowal of grace which is meantto embellish the koinonia. God's grace will be with all those who,following the example of the Saints, commit themselves to meeting its demands.How can we hesitate to be converted to the Father's expectations? He is withus.

Contribution of the Catholic Church to the quest for Christian unity

86 The Constitution Lumen Gentium, in afundamental affirmation echoed by the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio,141states that the one Church of Christ subsists in the CatholicChurch.142 The Decree on Ecumenism emphasizes the presence in her ofthe fullness (plenitudo) of the means of salvation.143 Fullunity will come about when all share in the fullness of the means of salvationentrusted by Christ to his Church.

87 Along the way that leads to full unity, ecumenicaldialogue works to awaken a reciprocal fraternal assistance, whereby Communitiesstrive to give in mutual exchange what each one needs in order to grow towardsdefinitive fullness in accordance with God's plan (cf. Eph Ep 4,11-13). Ihave said how we are aware, as the Catholic Church, that we have received muchfrom the witness borne by other Churches and Ecclesial Communities to certaincommon Christian values, from their study of those values, and even from theway in which they have emphasized and experienced them. Among the achievementsof the last thirty years, this reciprocal fraternal influence has had animportant place. At the stage which we have now reached,144 thisprocess of mutual enrichment must be taken seriously into account. Based on thecommunion which already exists as a result of the ecclesial elements present inthe Christian communities, this process will certainly be a force impellingtowards full and visible communion, the desired goal of the journey we aremaking. Here we have the ecumenical expression of the Gospel law of sharing.This leads me to state once more: "We must take every care to meet thelegitimate desires and expectations of our Christian brethren, coming to knowtheir way of thinking and their sensibilities ... The talents of each must bedeveloped for the utility and the advantage of all".145

The ministry of unity of the Bishop of Rome

88 Among all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, theCatholic Church is conscious that she has preserved the ministry of the Successorof the Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom God established as her"perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity" 146and whom the Spirit sustains in order that he may enable all the others toshare in this essential good. In the beautiful expression of Pope Saint Gregorythe Great, my ministry is that of servus servorum Dei. This designationis the best possible safeguard against the risk of separating power (and inparticular the primacy) from ministry. Such a separation would contradict thevery meaning of power according to the Gospel: "I am among you as one whoserves" (Lc 22,27), says our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of theChurch. On the other hand, as I acknowledged on the important occasion of avisit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva on 12 June 1984, the CatholicChurch's conviction that in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome she haspreserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers,the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for mostother Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections. Tothe extent that we are responsible for these, I join my Predecessor Paul VI inasking forgiveness.147

89 It is nonetheless significant and encouraging that thequestion of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome has now become a subject of studywhich is already under way or will be in the near future. It is likewisesignificant and encouraging that this question appears as an essential themenot only in the theological dialogues in which the Catholic Church is engagingwith other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, but also more generally in theecumenical movement as a whole. Recently the delegates to the Fifth WorldAssembly of the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches,held in Santiago de Compostela, recommended that the Commission "begin anew study of the question of a universal ministry of Christianunity".148 After centuries of bitter controversies, the otherChurches and Ecclesial Communities are more and more taking a fresh look atthis ministry of unity.149

90 The Bishop of Rome is the Bishop of the Church whichpreserves the mark of the martyrdom of Peter and of Paul: "By a mysteriousdesign of Providence it is at Rome that [Peter] concludes his journey infollowing Jesus, and it is at Rome that he gives his greatest proof of love andfidelity. Likewise Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, gives his supreme witnessat Rome. In this way the Church of Rome became the Church of Peter and ofPaul".150

In the New Testament, the person of Peter has an eminent place. In the firstpart of the Acts of the Apostles, he appears as the leader and spokesman of theApostolic College described as "Peter ... and the Eleven" (2:14; cf.2:37, 5:29). The place assigned to Peter is based on the words of Christhimself, as they are recorded in the Gospel traditions.

91 The Gospel of Matthew gives a clear outline of thepastoral mission of Peter in the Church: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is inheaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Churchand the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keysof the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound inheaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"(16:17-19). Luke makes clear that Christ urged Peter to strengthen hisbrethren, while at the same time reminding him of his own human weakness andneed of conversion (cf. 22:31-32). It is just as though, against the backdropof Peter's human weakness, it were made fully evident that his particularministry in the Church derives altogether from grace. It is as though theMaster especially concerned himself with Peter's conversion as a way ofpreparing him for the task he was about to give him in his Church, and for thisreason was very strict with him. This same role of Peter, similarly linked witha realistic affirmation of his weakness, appears again in the Fourth Gospel:"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? ... Feed mysheep" (cf. Jn Jn 21,15-19). It is also significant that according tothe First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians the Risen Christ appears to Cephasand then to the Twelve (cf. 15:5).

It is important to note how the weakness of Peter and of Paul clearly showsthat the Church is founded upon the infinite power of grace (cf. Mt Mt 16,17 2 Cor 2Co 12,7-10). Peter, immediately after receiving his mission, isrebuked with unusual severity by Christ, who tells him: "You are ahindrance to me" (Mt 16,23). How can we fail to see that the mercywhich Peter needs is related to the ministry of that mercy which he is thefirst to experience? And yet, Peter will deny Jesus three times. The Gospel ofJohn emphasizes that Peter receives the charge of shepherding the flock on theoccasion of a threefold profession of love (cf. 21:15-17), which corresponds tohis threefold denial (cf. 13:38). Luke, for his part, in the words of Christalready quoted, words which the early tradition will concentrate upon in orderto clarify the mission of Peter, insists on the fact that he will have to"strengthen his brethren when he has turned again" (cf. 22:32).

92 As for Paul, he is able to end the description of hisministry with the amazing words which he had heard from the Lord himself:"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness";consequently, he can exclaim: "When I am weak, then I am strong" (). This is a basic characteristic of the Christian experience.

As the heir to the mission of Peter in the Church, which has been madefruitful by the blood of the Princes of the Apostles, the Bishop of Romeexercises a ministry originating in the manifold mercy of God. This mercyconverts hearts and pours forth the power of grace where the discipleexperiences the bitter taste of his personal weakness and helplessness. Theauthority proper to this ministry is completely at the service of God'smerciful plan and it must always be seen in this perspective. Its power isexplained from this perspective.

93 Associating himself with Peter's threefold professionof love, which corresponds to the earlier threefold denial, his Successor knowsthat he must be a sign of mercy. His is a ministry of mercy, born of an act ofChrist's own mercy. This whole lesson of the Gospel must be constantly readanew, so that the exercise of the Petrine ministry may lose nothing of itsauthenticity and transparency.

The Church of God is called by Christ to manifest to a world ensnared by itssins and evil designs that, despite everything, God in his mercy can converthearts to unity and enable them to enter into communion with him.

94 This service of unity, rooted in the action of divinemercy, is entrusted within the College of Bishops to one among those who havereceived from the Spirit the task, not of exercising power over the peoplemasthe rulers of the Gentiles and their great men do (cf. Mt Mt 20,25 Mc 10,42)mbut of leading them towards peaceful pastures. This task can require theoffering of one's own life (cf. Jn Jn 10,11-18). Saint Augustine, aftershowing that Christ is "the one Shepherd, in whose unity all areone", goes on to exhort: "May all shepherds thus be one in the oneShepherd; may they let the one voice of the Shepherd be heard; may the sheephear this voice and follow their Shepherd, not this shepherd or that, but theonly one; in him may they all let one voice be heard and not a babble of voices... the voice free of all division, purified of all heresy, that the sheephear".151 The mission of the Bishop of Rome within the College ofall the Pastors consists precisely in "keeping watch" (episkopein),like a sentinel, so that, through the efforts of the Pastors, the true voice ofChrist the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches. In this way,in each of the particular Churches entrusted to those Pastors, the una,sancta, catholica et apostolica Ecclesia is made present. All the Churchesare in full and visible communion, because all the Pastors are in communionwith Peter and therefore united in Christ.

With the power and the authority without which such an office would beillusory, the Bishop of Rome must ensure the communion of all the Churches. Forthis reason, he is the first servant of unity. This primacy is exercised onvarious levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, thecelebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the Church's mission, disciplineand the Christian life. It is the responsibility of the Successor of Peter torecall the requirements of the common good of the Church, should anyone be temptedto overlook it in the pursuit of personal interests. He has the duty toadmonish, to caution and to declare at times that this or that opinion beingcirculated is irreconcilable with the unity of faith. When circumstancesrequire it, he speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. Hecan alsomunder very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First VaticanCouncilm declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to thedeposit of faith.152 By thus bearing witness to the truth, he servesunity.

95 All this however must always be done in communion.When the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Romecorresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from themission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also "vicars andambassadors of Christ".153 The Bishop of Rome is a member of the"College", and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry.

Whatever relates to the unity of all Christian communities clearly formspart of the concerns of the primacy. As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware, as Ihave reaffirmed in the present Encyclical Letter, that Christ ardently desiresthe full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue ofGod's faithfulness, his Spirit dwells. I am convinced that I have a particularresponsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenicalaspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding therequest made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in noway renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a newsituation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in "a brotherlyfraternal communion of faith and sacramental life ... If disagreements inbelief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consentas moderator".154

In this way the primacy exercised its office of unity. When addressing theEcumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that"for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all concerned,what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very differentlight. But ... it is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that Irecognize that as Bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry ... Iinsistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening allthe Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seekmtogether, ofcoursemthe forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of loverecognized by all concerned".155

96 This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse andwhich I cannot carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communionexisting between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engagewith me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue inwhich, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another,keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church and allowing ourselvesto be deeply moved by his plea "that they may all be one ... so that theworld may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,21)?

The communion of all particular Churches with the Church of Rome: anecessary condition for unity

97 The Catholic Church, both in her praxis and inher solemn documents, holds that the communion of the particular Churches withthe Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome, ismin God'splanman essential requisite of full and visible communion. Indeed fullcommunion, of which the Eucharist is the highest sacramental manifestation,needs to be visibly expressed in a ministry in which all the Bishops recognizethat they are united in Christ and all the faithful find confirmation for theirfaith. The first part of the Acts of the Apostles presents Peter as the one whospeaks in the name of the apostolic group and who serves the unity of thecommunitymall the while respecting the authority of James, the head of theChurch in Jerusalem. This function of Peter must continue in the Church so thatunder her sole Head, who is Jesus Christ, she may be visibly present in theworld as the communion of all his disciples.

Do not many of those involved in ecumenism today feel a need for such aministry? A ministry which presides in truth and love so that the shipmthatbeautiful symbol which the World Council of Churches has chosen as its emblemmwill not be buffeted by the storms and will one day reach its haven.

Full unity and evangelization

98 The ecumenical movement in our century, more than theecumenical undertakings of past centuries, the importance of which must nothowever be underestimated, has been characterized by a missionary outlook. Inthe verse of John's Gospel which is ecumenism's inspiration and guidingmotifm"that they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that youhave sent me" (Jn 17,21)mthe phrase that the world may believe hasbeen so strongly emphasized that at times we run the risk of forgetting that,in the mind of the Evangelist, unity is above all for the glory of the Father.At the same time it is obvious that the lack of unity among Christianscontradicts the Truth which Christians have the mission to spread and,consequently, it gravely damages their witness. This was clearly understood andexpressed by my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation EvangeliiNuntiandi: "As evangelizers, we must offer Christ's faithful not theimage of people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image ofpeople who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyondthe real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search fortruth. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with thewitness of unity given by the Church ... At this point we wish to emphasize thesign of unity among all Christians as the way and instrument of evangelization.The division among Christians is a serious reality which impedes the very workof Christ".156

How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the sametime being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians? Howevertrue it is that the Church, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and with thepromise of indefectibility, has preached and still preaches the Gospel to allnations, it is also true that she must face the difficulties which derive fromthe lack of unity. When non-believers meet missionaries who do not agree amongthemselves, even though they all appeal to Christ, will they be in a positionto receive the true message? Will they not think that the Gospel is a cause ofdivision, despite the fact that it is presented as the fundamental law of love?

99 When I say that for me, as Bishop of Rome, theecumenical task is "one of the pastoral priorities" of myPontificate,157 I think of the grave obstacle which the lack of unityrepresents for the proclamation of the Gospel. A Christian Community whichbelieves in Christ and desires, with Gospel fervour, the salvation of mankindcan hardly be closed to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who leads allChristians towards full and visible unity. Here an imperative of charity is inquestion, an imperative which admits of no exception. Ecumenism is not only aninternal question of the Christian Communities. It is a matter of the lovewhich God has in Jesus Christ for all humanity; to stand in the way of thislove is an offence against him and against his plan to gather all people inChrist. As Pope Paul VI wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I:"May the Holy Spirit guide us along the way of reconciliation, so that theunity of our Churches may become an ever more radiant sign of hope and consolationfor all mankind".158


100 In my recent Letter to the Bishops, clergy andfaithful of the Catholic Church indicating the path to be followed towards thecelebration of the Great Jubilee of the Holy Year 2000, I wrote that"the best preparation for the new millennium can only be expressed in a renewedcommitment to apply, as faithfully as possible, the teachings of Vatican II tothe life of every individual and of the whole Church".159 TheSecond Vatican Council is the great beginningmthe Advent as it weremof thejourney leading us to the threshold of the Third Millennium. Given theimportance which the Council attributed to the work of rebuilding Christianunity, and in this our age of grace for ecumenism, I thought it necessary toreaffirm the fundamental convictions which the Council impressed upon theconsciousness of the Catholic Church, recalling them in the light of theprogress subsequently made towards the full communion of all the baptized.

There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is active in this endeavour and thathe is leading the Church to the full realization of the Father's plan, inconformity with the will of Christ. This will was expressed with heartfelturgency in the prayer which, according to the Fourth Gospel, he uttered at themoment when he entered upon the saving mystery of his Passover. Just as he didthen, today too Christ calls everyone to renew their commitment to work forfull and visible communion.

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