Two Cathedrals Service: 'There is no cheap ecumenism...'

Over two thousands Christians from throughout Merseyside and region gathered at Liverpool’s two Cathedrals on the Feast of Pentecost in a visible celebration of their unity. They were joined on their ecumenical journey between the two Cathedrals along Hope Street by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who had travelled from Rome for the occasion.

He preached at the Two Cathedrals service which began at the Anglican Cathedral and following the procession along Hope Street, concluded at the Metropolitan cathedral. It was at Pentecost in 1982 that Pope John Paul II visited Liverpool and processed along Hope Street between the two Cathedrals and celebrated Mass, and since that time, the Two Cathedrals Service has regularly taken place on Pentecost Sunday, with thousands of pilgrims celebrating unity by walking along Hope Street.

Another significant landmark was the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Covenant of Unity, signed by Merseyside’s church leaders in the Anglican Cathedral in May, 1985.

Cardinal Kasper referred the challenges of ecumenism and the importance of walking in unity ‘on the road of hope’ in his sermon, before joining in the walk along Hope Street.

Two Cathedrals Service Picture Gallery

He said we read in the Acts of the Apostles how everybody heard the apostles in their own language and were united in listening to the same message. ‘But this new unity and new universality was not at all a uniformity, it meant unity within diversity and diversity within unity. And what else is the goal of ecumenism today other than this kind of unity within diversity of all believers in Jesus Christ.’

But as we all know, said the Cardinal, there does not exist only unity and love. ‘This reality is against Christ’s will, is against the testament he left us on the eve of his death when he prayed that all be one…this reality of a divided Christendom is sin and is a scandal. It damages the holy task that is the mission given by the Spirit to spread the Gospel all over the world in order to reconcile peoples and to bring them together.’

He declared: ‘We cannot preach reconciliation and peace and at the same time be divided and not reconciled among ourselves.’

This was even more urgent and true today at the beginning of the 21st century with all the social, cultural, political, military and racial tensions and conflicts in our world.

The Cardinal said: ‘We have to confess in sadness that there is not yet full communion among us. We are not yet together and not yet united at the one table of the Lord: we cannot yet share the same Eucharistic bread, we cannot yet drink from the one chalice.’

The unity we are seeking is a unity in truth and in love so ‘we cannot make a potpourri or a mixed salad out of the different churches. We have to recognise and to love each other in our otherness and in our diversity.’

Cardinal Kasper said that Jesus Christ was the very goal of ecumenism. ‘Only by being more united with Christ will we be more united also among ourselves.’

He added: ‘There is no cheap ecumenism: ecumenism has its price and requires courageous risks. The ecumenical pilgrimage is a pilgrimage in growing in holiness and sanctification. Spiritual ecumenism is the very heart of the ecumenical movement.’

Ecumenism was a process of growing together. ‘There are many fields in which we can co-operate already today, much more than we think and much more than we actually undertake already today. Our world needs the cooperation of all good Christians; it needs that we speak with one voice about human and Christian values, especially about family values which are in so much jeopardy today.

‘Our world also needs our cooperation in the field of culture, peace, social justice and the preservation of creation. Our time particularly needs courage and hope, it must see that not only bad things happen but also good things are possible.

‘So we should give witness that even after a sometimes painful history between the churches, reconciliation, co-operation and friendship are possible.’