POPE Paul told Catholics during Christian Unity Week that reunion of Christians was an "urgent" need. During his noon talk to the crowds in St Peter's Square, he recalled that Christian unity was "one. of the principal intentions of the Second Vatican Council,"
Division of Christians, said the Pope, "not only openly contradicts the will of Christ, but is also a scandal to the world, damaging the most holy cause of preaching the Gospel to all creatures. Activity by the faithful for the recomposition of unity is both justified and urgent." He suggested that Catholics should work for unity by: "First, enlivening our religious sense, our faith and our loyalty to the Catholic Church, to which we have the good fortune to belong. This is the hinge of unity. "Second, renewing and reforming our practice as Catholic faithful, and praying for Christian unity. This is a sentiment which is always alive in the sincerely Catholic Heart.
"Third, looking with reverence and closeness at our separated brothers, and forgetting the offences and historic divisions in order to work with them toward relationships of friendship and of human and Christian cooperation."
The Pope concluded by saluting all non-Catholic Christians with the hope that "we will be able to join together in unity of faith and charity according to the wish of Christ Our Lord."
Archbishop Jerome Hamer, secretary of the Vatican's Doctrinal Congregation, has criticised "ecumenical gunslingers" who embark on ecumenical initiatives not approved by the Church.
Archbishop Hamer, a former official of the Vatican's Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, especially criticised in a Unity Week sermon, Catholics who practised intercommunion or identified the Christian message "with a particular political choice." The "ecumenical gunsslingers," he said, substituted their own independent initiatives for the action of the Church.
"They are ready to abandon a part of Church teaching be the first to reach the goal, practising inter-communion and identifying the Christian message with a particular political choice."
The archbishop said that such behaviour had been proved to end without results.
Ecumenism, he said, "is a programme of the Church in which every baptised person has his part, but in which the ultimate responsibility lies in the hands of an apostolic body — the successors of the apostles under the guidance of the successor of Peter."
The Archbishop asked Catholics to remember that the Catholic Church was the only Church to possess all the marks of the Church of Christ.
"While we do recognise with gratitude that there are many elements of holiness and truth in other Christian confessions, we nonetheless know that the only Church of Christ which we profess in the Creed to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, subsists in the Catholic Church."
Catholics could contribute to ecumenism by living Christianity well and by studying what the Second Vatican Council really taught, he said. "The Council gave us a teaching, but we still need to make it our own."
The Archbishop said the job of ecumenism today was to deepen the dialogue already begun. "It is a job which can be done without great publicity," he said. "Rather I would say that publicity sometimes runs the risk of harming the work."
The year-old Vatican document restating the Church's ban on ordaining women to the priesthood was an effort to promote Christian unity, not to block it, according to a theologian writing in the Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano.
The lengthy article, which defended the Doctrinal Congregation's document of January 27, 1977, banning women priests, said: "If there are stumbling blocks to unity, they come from those who are introducing new practices."
The Church's re-statement of its ban on women priests came soon after the American Episcopal Church voted to permit the practice. Ordination of women by the Episcopalians and other member Churches of the world-wide Anglican Communion has been a serious new obstacle in the reunion efforts of the Catholic and Anglican C hurches.
The author of the article, covering a page and a half of the newspaper, was Fr Louis Legier, Si, consultor to the Vatican Doctrinal Congregation and Professor of Sacramental Theology at Rome's Gregorian University. He said the declaration was "opportune" from the ecumenical point of view and that it "seeks only to satisfy the required conditions" for successful ecumenism,
"By advising the other Churches not to introduce in their disciplines the new practice of female ministry, the Catholic Church is paying careful attention to the wellknown ecumenical principle that, while a reunification process is going on, it is not a good idea for a church to introduce practices which will block other churches from reaching the foreseen unification," wrote Fr Le_gier.