Christ prayed that all may be one but we realize that we have a very divided Christianity. We, at this time, remember Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation that took place 500 years ago.

Was there need for one? Sure there was!

There still is! Since we are constantly trying to know Christ better and to see what

He is asking of us. A brief reading of the history of the time shows us there was need for reform as many bishops were living like princes. Many priests were uneducated and living sinful lives.

Many feel that Luther never intended to split Western Christianity, but to reform the abuses of the Church in how it was seeking Alms by playing on the faith and devotion of the faithful. Salvation can never be bought.

The history of the Reformation has over-time encountered a changing reception in the Catholic Church where its events and protagonists were long seen in a negative light—through long ecumenical dialogue, the theological differences rooted in the period have been re-evaluated.

But memories of the Reformation and subsequent separation of Western Christianity are still not free from pain.

But the wounds are still felt to the present day, it’s gratifying that Catholic theology has succeeded in the meantime of soberly reconsidering these 16th century events.

The Church today recognizes what was important in the Reformation namely that sacred scripture is the centre and standard of Christian life and we share in the priesthood of the faithful by Baptism. There is not a bishop today, who would disagree.

Since the Second Vatican Council, theologians and bishops have demonstrated over and over that Catholics and Protestants share substantial, important common ground

and the ties that bind are greater than the divisions of the 16th century.

But the weight of 500 years of history has been too great to move even for official dialogues between our best scholars and wisest bishops. In recent years, dialogue has brought understanding on the meaning of justification and understanding of Eucharist.

We will remember together, sing together, pray together and hopefully plan together. As well, this is not just, about what happened. This is about where we are and where we are going.

The struggle for unity is something we should learn to enjoy. The joy is in engaging in it.

It is a way in which we understand that we are centered in Jesus Christ but have through our history, our way of looking at Scripture, prayer and traditional and lived experience arrive at different views. We often reach agreement on issues like, poverty, environment, and refugees but differ on issues of life like abortion and Euthanasia.

Ecumenism is not some massive exercise in forgetting the central event of European history since the 16th Century. The first job of ecumenical theology is to remember how and when we become divided and the hurt and damage is caused to the Body of Christ and how it unset the civilized world of that time.

We have to leave the battles behind forever and ever and truly lament them. Hundreds of thousands of people died. This is truly to be lamented, and pray God help us that we never do such a thing again.

What happened 500 years ago has influenced and shaped our modern consciousness and a sense of who we are. The positive thing for Catholics, the Council of Trent, caused us to establish seminaries to train students for the priesthood in theology and discipline, proper catechisms to educate the faithful were published.

For Protestants it was the translations of Scripture into German and being able to print it because of the invention of the printing press.

Reconciliation is a key word in the Gospel – but it is one of those keys that seems to be forever getting lost.

Reconciliation to God sounds wonderful but the way there, may be hard to take because it generally involve changing our relationship with each other and that is tough for us humans.

In the early Church, we see the unity, love and lifestyle of Christians drew those in surrounding culture to say, “I want that”

When there is Christian unity, it breeds Christian unity. We talk of environment, poverty, not rhetoric. Pope Francis gestures mercy.

The early Christian unity commanded respect but today, with 33 thousand denominations Christianity has lost its credibility. What does the outside world see? People see Christians divided into camps and Sunday is the most segregated of all.

When the outside world sees Christians fighting with each other like a dysfunctional family, they will look elsewhere to find meaning.

People are not interested in studying our theology. They are studying us. As Mahatma Gandi told us after his experience in South Africa 100 years ago, “I like your Christ, its you Christians I do not like. You Christians are so unlike your Christ”.

We need to shed any part of our flesh that proves to be an impediment to unity such as ways of relating, suspicion and prejudice. No true unity will be found without a cost, without Christians taking up their cross.

1 Cor. 12

“There are different kind of spirtual gifts,

but the same Spirit:

there are varieties of service,

but the same Lord: and

there are varieties of working,

but it is the same God who inspires

them all in everyone.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”

Paul, who founded many Christian communities, including that of Corinth, knows very well by experience that they are of different natures.

The different letters that he writes to these communities do not tackle the same problems.

Paul takes note of this diversity among the churches, but he is careful to say that all these differences have one, and the same origin: the Spirit Himself!

This means the varieties of working are not obstacles, but are rather like the stones of different colours that go to make a beautiful mosaic.

These days, all of our ecumenical concern, seems to have boiled down to this, one, unfortunate question: How to peacefully coexist with those belonging to the other denominations without losing our own identity?

But, that will not do. If we are attentive to the happenings around the world, we can note disturbing indications of intolerance here and there.

Peace cannot be built up on an under structure of divisions, nor can we succeed in forging a serene vision of the future while remaining divided.

May the Holy Spirit, who, on the day of the Pentecost, allowed people of different nations and languages to understand each other under the impulse of His grace renew our hearts and enlighten our intelligence.

May He give us the courage to take concrete steps on the way to Christian unity? May he make us eager to build bridges of reconciliation between Churches and peoples, in our world of manifold varieties?

Most Reverend Martin W. Currie, D.D.

Archbishop of St. John’s