I am all in favor of true Christian Unity. I am also in favor of increasing partial Christian Unity. For example, the Eastern Orthodox Churches are in almost complete union with the Catholic Church except they do not acknowledge the pope as the head of the Church but I do believe they recognize him (at least most Orthodox Christians) as the Bishop of Rome. The sacrament of Holy Orders is in tact with the Orthodox and thus all of the other sacraments of the Church are in tact too. I hope one day that there will be inter-communion between the Orthodox and Catholics as well as full corporate union.
The Reformation denoninations or "communions" are further away from full communion or even partial communion with the Catholic Church. Every Protestant denomination including the Anglican Communion have an invalid Sacrament of Holy Orders. Historic Reformation denominations reject Holy Orders as a Sacrament. Anglican claim to have vaid orders but this is a fallacy. Any denomination that has invalid Holy Orders cannot have valid sacraments except for Holy Baptism if properly celebrated according to the mind of the Church and marriage.
Thus the only way to true ecumenism and Christian Unity is what Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have initiated and Pope Francis is continuing. When Saint John Paul II allowed Anglican/Episcopal bishops and priests to come into the full communion and unity of the Catholic Church they need to be validly ordained in the Catholic Church, which meant they needed to be validly confirmed in the Sacrament of Confirmation, needed to make their First Holy Communion also as well as their First Confession, this was and is the way to true Christian Unity and ecumenism. As Anglicans/Episcopalians, not only were these bishops and priests not ordained, they weren't even confirmed and they have never received or celebrated a valid Holy Communion. Their confessions were not valid either.
Pope Benedict kicked St. John Paul's Pastoral Provision up a major notch when His Holiness established the Anglian Ordinariate. The ecumenism in this is that the Holy Father acknowledges the patrimony of the Anglican Heritage even after their break from Rome, and has allowed that patrimony to continue in the Ordinariate's liturgy and sacraments as well as tradition of the Liturgy of the Hours in the Book of Common Prayer.
This would never have been possible without the Second Vatican Council!
And now Pope Francis in continuity with Pope Benedict continues his tradition of being the pope of Christian unity by encouraging Anglicans and Episcopalians to come into the true unity of the true Church through the Anglican Ordinariate.
This is what Pope Francis endorsed yesterday, the Anglican Ordinariate's outreach to Anglicans/Episcopalians encouraging them to join the Anglican Ordinariate and thus continue the journey to true Christian Unity:
The endorsement was delivered in a letter from the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, to Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate.
The full text of Archbishop Mennini’s letter reads as follows:
“At the request of the Secretariat of State, I have been asked to inform you that the Holy Father Francis, on learning of the national day of exploration entitled “Called to be One”, organised by the various Groups of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and due to take place on Saturday 6 September 2014, wishes to convey his good wishes and prayers for a successful and inspiring event. The Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing upon all those persons who are participating in this significant event and working in any way for the promotion and presentation of the Catholic Faith and the Gospel in Great Britain”.
The Nuncio ends with his own prayerful good wishes for a very successful day.
Pope Francis’ blessing on the exploration day and Archbishop Mennini’s words of support for it follow a statement of welcome for the initiative from Cardinal Vincent Nichols. In his capacity as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Cardinal said: “the Ordinariate both enriches the Catholic Church with Catholic aspects of the beautiful heritage and culture of Anglican patrimony and advances the cause of unity which must be the ultimate aim of all ecumenical activity… I wish you every success with this initiative. I hope it will attract many interested enquirers”.
Last week Mgr Newton warmly invited all those who are interested in the Ordinariate to attend the exploration day “whether because they are considering their future or just because they would like to see more of what we are and what we do” . Mgr Newton’s invitation came in his response to the Church of England General Synod’s decision to allow women to be ordained as bishops. In the same statement Mgr Newton said that, though that decision was a very happy one for many within the Church of England, it made the position undeniably harder for those within the Anglican Church who still longed for unity with Rome.
The Ordinariate was set up by Pope Benedict in 2011 to make it possible for Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church to do so, bringing with them much of the heritage and traditions of Anglicanism. Pope Benedict described these as “treasures to be shared”. On the exploration day, each of the 40 or so Ordinariate groups across the country will host a different event, with the common theme of the vision for Christian unity which is at the heart of the Ordinariate.