Papacy & Christian Unity

The Pope

As Vicar of Jesus Christ, the Pope governs the Catholic Church as its supreme head. The Pope, as Bishop of Rome, is the chief pastor and shepherd of the whole Church. We believe that the Pope is the successor of Peter, and his bishops are successors of the Twelve Apostles.

It is clear throughout that it is a question of the bishops acting in conjunction with their head, never of the bishops acting independently of the Pope. In the latter instance, without the action of the head, the bishops are not able to act as a College: this is clear from the concept of "College." This hierarchical communion of all the bishops with the Supreme Pontiff is certainly firmly established in Tradition. (Lumen Gentium, Note of Explanation)

In the Acts of the Apostles, we come to know Peter is the head of the early church. When Peter is given the “keys to the kingdom,” Christ is establishing the divine office of leadership over the church. The permanence of the office of the Pope is essential to the everlasting nature of the church.

"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself. (CCC 891)

Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent" which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. (CCC 892)

Christian Unity

     The Catholic Church is united under the leadership of the Most Blessed Trinity, specifically, Christ, the King. The Father has entrusted us into the care of His Son and at the end of time, the Church will be presented back to the Father by the Son. In the meantime, He, with His vicar, the Bishop of Rome and Successor of St. Peter, guides the Church through His teachings and by His grace so that all might be able to know and love Him, the Father, & the Holy Spirit. We are called to be a "people of His own possession." Christ prayed that we might be one as He and the Father are one. Yet, we see division between the followers of Christ. Historical breaks and schisms have left us fractured, with the "Eastern Orthodox" churches no longer in full unity with Catholicism and the 30,000 different Protestant ecclesial communities each professing varying beliefs.

     The Church founded by Christ, the Catholic Church, has been entrusted with the fullness of grace & truth (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 819). Our Eastern Orthodox & Protestant brethern each proclaim varying degrees of that fullness of truth. So, why can't we all just "get along" or simply be "tolerant" of each other? So often, these ideas mean either not professing the complete teachings given by Christ or being altogether silent on some of teachings. If we do this, than we give a false representation of what we believe and that leads to a unity founded in misrepresentation, a "unity" that is bound to fail. We each should strive to understand the reasoning behind other beliefs and, when possible, reconcile the differences, but never at the expense of "softening" or "marginalizing" the Truth. 

     So, what can we do? First, and most importantly, we need to have the prayer of Christ for unity in our hearts. We, each and all, need to be praying that the Holy Spirit will aid with the reconcilliation of believers. Where there is common ground, we must nurture it. Where there is division, we must seek to lead others to the Truth. In all things, we must continue to be exemplars of the love of Christ.