Ut unum sint

Ut unum sint – Latin, “that they may all be one” (from the Gospel According to St. John 17:21)

Selected quotes from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on Fratres Seiuncti, Latin, “separated brethren” (Christians of the Eastern Orthodox and Western Protestant Churches) and the Vatican’s commitment to Ecumenism.

Link to the original encyclical: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint.html


“In its great plan for the re-establishment of unity among all Christians, the Decree on Ecumenism also speaks of relations with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West, wishing to create a climate of Christian fraternity and dialogue.

“This Decree affirms: ‘The Churches and Ecclesial Communities which were separated from the Apostolic See of Rome during the very serious crisis that began in the West at the end of the Middle Ages, or during later times, are bound to the Catholic Church by a special affinity and close relationship in view of the long span of earlier centuries when the Christian people lived in ecclesiastical communion.’ Common roots and similar, if distinct, considerations have guided the development in the West of the Catholic Church and of the Churches and Communities which have their origins in the Reformation.

“The Second Vatican Council did not attempt to give a ‘description’ of post-Reformation Christianity, since ‘in origin, teaching and spiritual practice, these Churches and Ecclesial Communities differ not only from us but also among themselves to a considerable degree.’

“The Council states that the Church of Christ ‘subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him’, and at the same time acknowledges that ‘many elements of sanctification and of truth can be found outside her visible structure.’

“’It follows that these separated Churches and Communities, though we believe that they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and value in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church’

“’Our thoughts are concerned … with those Christians who openly confess Jesus Christ as God and Lord and as the sole Mediator between God and man unto the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ …These brothers and sisters promote love and veneration for the Sacred Scriptures: ‘Calling upon the Holy Spirit, they seek in these Sacred Scriptures God as he speaks to them in Christ, the One whom the prophets foretold, God’s Word made flesh for us. In the Scriptures they contemplate the life of Christ, as well as the teachings and the actions of the Divine Master on behalf of the salvation of all, in particular the mysteries of his Death and Resurrection … They affirm the divine authority of the Sacred Books.

At the same time, however, they ‘think differently from us … about the relationship between the Scriptures and the Church’.

In view of all this, the Catholic Church desires nothing less than full communion between East and West.”

I, John Paul, servus servorum Dei, venture to make my own the words of the Apostle Paul, whose martyrdom, together with that of the Apostle Peter, has bequeathed to this See of Rome the splendour of its witness, and I say to you, the faithful of the Catholic Church, and to you, my brothers and sisters of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities: ‘Mend your ways, encourage one another, live in harmony, and the God of love and peace will be with you … The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:11,13).”

– Pope John Paul II, May 25, 1995



Unitatis Redintegratio

‘Unitatis redintegratio’ (Latin for “Restoration of unity”) is the Second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenism. It was passed by a vote of 2,137 to 11 of the bishops assembled, and was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 21 November 1964.

The document acknowledges that there are serious problems facing prospects of reunion with Reformation communities that make no attempt to claim apostolic succession such as the Anglican communion does. Ecclesial communities that adhere to Calvinism are a particular case because they often have important doctrinal differences on key issues such as ecclesiology, liturgy and mariology.

Frank Flinn wrote, in Encyclopedia of Catholicism, that in 1959 Pope John XXIII “addressed Protestants as separated brethren,” in Ad Petri cathedram (APC), which Flinn saw as “an important step toward recognizing Protestants as legitimate partners in a future dialogue.”

“Separated brethren” is a term sometimes used by the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy and members to refer to baptized members of other Christian traditions. Also applied to Christians of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. The phrase is a translation of the Latin phrase “fratres seiuncti”.


%d bloggers like this: