Pope Francis yesterday met the 18 members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) before they left for their annual meeting at the Palazzola retreat house, in the Alban Hills south of Rome.
The Arcic dialogue forum was established after the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, and its first meeting took place in January 1970. The continuing aim is to achieve the “unity in truth for which Christ prayed”.
This year’s gathering will focus on the relationship between the universal Church and the local Church, raising issues at the heart of the Church’s own internal discussions on questions of reform. The Pope said the forthcoming publication of five jointly agreed statements, from the previous phase of the Arcic dialogue, is a reminder that ecumenism is not a “secondary element” in the life of the Church and that the differences that divide Anglicans and Catholics must not be seen as inevitable.
To drive his point home, the Pope referred to the current persecution of Christians around the world. The signs of the times, he said, were calling all Christians to unity and common witness.
“There is a strong bond that already unites us which goes beyond all divisions,” he told the Arcic members. “It is the testimony of Christians from different Churches and traditions, victims of persecution and violence simply because of the faith they profess.”
The blood of these martyrs will nourish “a new era of ecumenical commitment”, he said, insisting that the world urgently needs the witness of Christians willing to testify in defence of life and human dignity, and the promotion of justice and peace.
The Christian martyrs, he said, would engender “a fervent desire to fulfill the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one” (John 17:21).