I WAS encouraged when Archbishop John Bathersby raised the prospect of Anglican-Catholic union (Page 1, CL 25/2/07).
Premature it may be, or even impossible doctrinally, but it shows that Catholics are people of faith, not of prejudice.
I believe that we, as Catholics, should open up paths to other people of faith at the local level where doctrine seems less important than relationships.
For example, we could have one Sunday on the church calendar, called Visitation Sunday, when the Church encourages regular Massgoers to attend a service in a non-Catholic church as well as, or even instead of, their own parish Mass.
Our priests could participate by offering fewer Masses that weekend.
Some may think that deliberately avoiding Sunday Mass is hardly the way to strengthen one’s faith.
Also, going to other churches en masse may indicate that Catholics think other people’s beliefs are just a difference in opinion, rather than a difference in truth.
That is not necessarily so.
I noticed an article in The Australian last weekend, saying that Cardinal Biffi who is conducting the Pope’s Lenten retreat this year, warning that Christianity was “not an ideology but a personal encounter with Christ”.
From what I see on “Bible based” television, there are plenty of non-Catholics having a personal encounter with Christ.
So mixing with them in worship should not affect our encounter with Jesus, or our Catholic belief. It might even strengthen it.
While the Visitation Sunday idea may not work in other parts of the world, or even in Australia, I think it would in Brisbane by opening up relationships with the wider Christian community and showing other Christians that, while Catholics may not share their religious affiliation, Catholics are open enough to share their journey in faith.
If they don’t want us there, they could just put a sign out the front.
But how many would? Maybe they would be happy to visit us.
In time, we could move further afield and visit people in mosques, synagogues and temples to show that we, like them, are a pilgrim people in a secular world, trying to keep our faith as best we can.
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