Statistics say there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world, and about 1.2 billion are Catholics. Christian Unity has been a central aim of the Catholic Church for fifty-three years, since the ending of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. We believe, as do all Christians, that there is one Church, arising from one baptism, into one Lord Jesus Christ. While there are hundreds or thousands of “churches” in the world, all baptized persons are part of the “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”  We believe that there are “imperfect bonds of union” within the Church. The chosen way in which we pursue unity is dialogue.

            This imperfect unity can become painfully obvious at Holy Communion. Christian churches, apart from Orthodox and Polish National Catholics do not have—generally—validly ordained priests or a clear belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and so are not eligible to receive Holy Communion at Mass.

            The Catholic Church does recognize that many individual Christians—whatever their denomination —do personally believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In particular circumstances, where there is no possibility for them to receive communion in their own church, these persons may be admitted to Holy Communion (e.g., nursing home, wedding of family member, funeral).

            I followed this principle on Holy Thursday in inviting the pastor of our visiting church, Bishop Gibson, to receive Holy Communion. I did so because I found his belief in the Real Presence to agree with ours. For some of you this was upsetting, I realize. I did this because it was a joint Holy Thursday event which cannot come often, and the grace to be gained was—I believed—the most important thing.

            I will write further to make this principle clearer as time goes on.

                                    Father John Hynes