Question: “The United Kingdom, like many other Western countries, is considered to be a secular State. There is a strong culturally-motivated atheist movement. Nonetheless, there are also signs that religious faith – particularly faith in Jesus Christ – remains alive at a personal level. What does this mean for Catholics and Anglicans? Can anything be done to make the Church a more credible and attractive institution?”
Holy Father: “In my view”, the Pope replied, “a Church which seeks above all to be attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for herself, she does not work to increase her numbers and her power. The Church is at the service of Another. She serves not herself, not to become strong; rather, she serves to make the announcement of Jesus Christ more accessible: the great truths, the great powers of love and reconciliation which appeared in Him and which always come from the presence of Jesus Christ. … In this sense its seems to me that Anglicans and Catholics have a simple task, the same task, the same direction to follow. If Anglicans and Catholics see that neither is an end unto themselves, but that they are both
instruments of Christ (‘friend of the bridegroom’ as St. John says); if both follow Christ’s priorities and not their own, then they come together because those priorities unite them. They are no longer rivals, each searching for more followers, they are joined in their commitment to the truth of Christ which comes into this world. Thus do they also reciprocally discover authentic and fruitful ecumenism”.
This beautiful insight of the Holy Father subtly changes pastoral priorities in a parish. So often we see success in the parish level in terms of the numbers who are coming to Mass and attending our programs. We also want to successfully compete with the other Christian Churches. But Benedict says that being an attractive church is the wrong path – we don’t try to increase our power or numbers. We simply put ourselves at the service of Christ and the love and reconciliation he offers. What a great relief — and a great challenge!