[ Table of Contents | Onward ]


God's plans are often inscrutable. Only in the hereafter will it be truly possible to "see" and, therefore, to understand. But would it be possible to have a glimpse even now of the answer to the question that, for centuries, many believers have asked? Why would the Holy Spirit have permitted so many different divisions and enmities among those who claim to be disciples of the same Gospel, disciples of the same Christ?

Yes, indeed, we can truly ask ourselves: Why did the Holy Spirit permit all these divisions? In general, the causes and historical development of these divisions are well known. It is legitimate, however, to wonder if there is perhaps a metahistorical reason as well.

There are two possible answers to this question. The more negative one would see in these divisions the bitter fruit of sins committed by Christians. The more positive answer is inspired by trust in the One who is capable of bringing forth good even from evil, from human weakness. Could it not be that these divisions have also been a path continually leading the Church to discover the untold wealth contained in Christ's Gospel and in the redemption accomplished by Christ? Perhaps all this wealth would not have come to light otherwise.

More generally, we can affirm that for human knowledge and human action a certain dialectic is present. Didn't the Holy Spirit, in His divine "condescendence," take this into consideration? It is necessary for humanity to achieve unity through plurality, to learn to come together in the one Church, even while

presenting a plurality of ways of thinking and acting, of

cultures and civilizations. Wouldn't such a way of looking at things be, in a certain sense, more consonant with the wisdom of God, with His goodness and providence?

Nevertheless, this cannot be a justification for

the divisions that continue to deepen! The time must come for the love that unites us to be manifested! Many things lead us to believe that that time is now here, and as a result, the importance of ecumenism for Christianity should be evident. Ecumenism is a response to the exhortation in the First Letter of Peter to "give an explanation [of] the reason for our hope" (cf. 1 Pt 3:15).

Mutual respect is a prerequisite for authentic ecumenism. Earlier, in recalling my experiences in my homeland, I pointed out the historical events that shaped Poland as a society characterized by a broad tolerance for many beliefs and many nationalities. At a time in Western history when heretics were being tried and burned at the stake, the last Polish king of the Jagiellon dynasty gave proof of this with the words "I am not the king of your consciences."

Let's remember for that matter that the Lord Jesus conferred upon Peter certain pastoral duties, which consist in preserving the unity of the flock. The Petrine ministry is also a ministry of unity, which is carried out in the field of ecumenism. Peter's task is to search constantly for ways that will help preserve unity. Therefore he must not create obstacles but must open up paths. Nor is this in any way at odds with the duty entrusted to him by Christ: "strengthen your brothers in faith" (cf. Lk 22:32). It is significant that Christ said these words precisely at the moment when Peter was about to deny Him. It was as if the Master Himself wanted to tell Peter: "Remember that you are weak, that you, too, need endless conversion. You are able to strengthen others only insofar as you are aware of your own weakness. I entrust to you as your responsibility the truth, the great truth of God, meant for man's salvation, but this truth cannot be preached or put into practice except by loving." Veritatem facere in caritate (To live the truth in love; cf. Eph 4:15); this is what is always necessary.