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2.12 One Church − then why all the division among Christians?

The origin of the Church

From the beginning, Jesus wanted all believers to be as one (Jn. 17:20-23) Jn. 17:20-23: I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.. It is therefore very painful to see that Christians are so divided. The main causes of this division in various churches and communities are the stubbornness, prejudices and sinfulness of the people themselves.

It is the duty of every Christian to pray for the reunification of the Church. Although we can work with the Holy Spirit and strive together for that unity (ecumenism), only God can bring about true unity.

Jesus wants one Church, but our sinfulness causes divisions. We must pray and work for unity, but only God can give it.
The Wisdom of the Church

How does one commit oneself to work for the unity of Christians?

The desire to restore the unity of all Christians is a gift from Christ and a call of the Spirit. This desire involves the entire Church and it is pursued by conversion of heart, prayer, fraternal knowledge of each other and theological dialogue. [CCCC 164]

Are non-Catholic Christians our sisters and brothers also?

All baptized persons belong to the Church of Jesus Christ. That is why also those Christians who find themselves separated from the full communion of the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Jesus Christ lives on, are rightly called Christians and are therefore our sisters and brothers.

Instances of separation from the one Church of Christ came about through falsifications of Christ’s teaching, human failings, and a lack of willingness to be reconciled—usually on the part of representatives on both sides. Christians today are in no way guilty for the historical divisions of the Church. The Holy Spirit also works for the salvation of mankind in the Churches and ecclesial communities that are separated from the Catholic Church. All of the gifts present there, for example, Sacred Scripture, sacraments,  faith, hope, love, and other charisms, come originally from Christ. Where the spirit of Christ lives, there is an inner dynamic leading toward “reunion”, because what belongs together wants to grow together. [Youcat 130]

Where does the one Church of Christ subsist?

The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter. [CCCC 162]

Why can there be only one Church?

Just as there is only one Christ, there can be only one Body of Christ, only one Bride of Christ, and therefore only one Church of Jesus Christ. He is the Head, the Church is the Body. Together they form the “whole Christ” (St. Augustine). Just as the body has many members yet is one, so too the one Church consists of and is made up of many particular churches (dioceses).

Jesus built his Church, which subsists in the Catholic Church, on the foundation of the apostles. This foundation supports her to this day. The faith of the apostles was handed down from generation to generation under the leadership of the pope, the Petrine ministry, “which presides in charity” (St. Ignatius of Antioch). The sacraments, too, which Jesus entrusted to the apostolic college, still work with their original power. [Youcat 129]

In what way is the Church holy?

The Church is holy insofar as the Most Holy God is her author. Christ has given himself for her to sanctify her and make her a source of sanctification. The Holy Spirit gives her life with charity. In the Church one finds the fullness of the means of salvation. Holiness is the vocation of each of her members and the purpose of all her activities. The Church counts among her members the Virgin Mary and numerous Saints who are her models and intercessors. The holiness of the Church is the fountain of sanctification for her children who here on earth recognize themselves as sinners ever in need of conversion and purification. [CCCC 165]

Is the particular Church catholic?

Every particular Church (that is, a diocese or eparchy) is catholic. It is formed by a community of Christians who are in communion of faith and of the sacraments both with their bishop, who is ordained in apostolic succession, and with the Church of Rome which “presides in charity” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch). [CCCC 167]

Why is the Church called catholic?

“Catholic” (Greek kat’ holon) means related to the whole. The Church is catholic because Christ called her to profess the whole faith, to preserve all the sacraments, to administer them and proclaim the Good news to all; and he sent her to all nations. [Youcat 133]

Who belongs to the Catholic Church?

Anyone who, in union with the pope and the bishops, is united to Jesus Christ through profession of the Catholic faith and reception of the sacraments is in full communion with the Catholic Church.

God willed one Church for all. Unfortunately we Christians have been unfaithful to this wish of Christ. Nevertheless, even today we are still deeply united with one another by our faith and common Baptism. [Youcat 134]

Why is the Church called apostolic?

The Church is called apostolic because she was founded upon the apostles, holds fast to their Tradition, and is governed by their successors.

Jesus called the apostles to be his closest collaborators. They were his eyewitnesses. After his resurrection, he appeared to them repeatedly. He bestowed on them the Holy Spirit and sent them as his authoritative messengers to all the world. They assured unity in the early Church. They conferred their mission and authority upon their successors, the bishops, through the laying on of hands. This process is called apostolic succession. [Youcat 137]

This is what the Church Fathers say

Since the Church, instituted by the Lord and strengthened by the Apostles, is the one Church of all people... it cannot be denied that the separation from the faith has come about as the result of a [defective] understanding, while that which was read was adapted to one's views rather than one's views being submissive to what was read. [St. Hilary, On the Trinity, Bk. 7, Chap. 4 (ML 10, 202)]