Pope Francis interfaith

About the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Program

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington, according to the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism §41-44 by the Pontifical Council on the Promotion of Christian Unity, is established by the Bishop to seek greater unity among those who share one faith and one baptism in Jesus Christ (ecumenism), as well as to seek deeper understanding among people of all faiths (baptized and unbaptized, or interreligious) toward a world of mutual respect and peace.

The heart of the ecumenical movement and our search for understanding among religions which has been growing in the heart of the Church for the past one hundred years found its clear voice in the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, particularly in the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio and the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non- Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate.

“The attainment of union is the concern of the whole Church, faithful and shepherds alike. This concern extends to everyone, according to his or her talent, whether it be exercised in his or her daily Christian life or in his or her theological and historical research. This concern itself reveals already to some extent the bond of brotherhood between all Christians and it helps toward that full and perfect unity which God in His kindness wills.” —Unitatis Redintegratio

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions...The Church, therefore, exhorts her children, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these people.” 
—Nostra Aetate

We pray that we might serve some role in seeking this will of Christ which he made known the night before he offered his life for the salvation of all people: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn. 16:20-21).

Pope St. John Paul II writes in his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (1995): "The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God. For this reason he sent his Son, so that by dying and rising for us he might bestow on us the Spirit of love.

On the eve of his sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus himself prayed to the Father for his disciples and for all those who believe in him, that they might be one, a living communion. This is the basis not only of the duty, but also of the responsibility before God and his plan, which falls to those who through Baptism become members of the Body of Christ, a Body in which the fullness of reconciliation and communion must be made present. How is it possible to remain divided, if we have been 'buried' through Baptism in the Lord’s death, in the very act by which God, through the death of his Son, has broken down the walls of division? Division 'openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the Good News to every creature' (UR, 1)."

Together with all Christ’s disciples, the Catholic Church bases upon God’s plan her ecumenical commitment to gather all Christians into unity. Indeed, “the Church is not a reality closed in on herself. Rather, she is permanently open to missionary and ecumenical endeavour, for she is sent to the world to announce and witness, to make present and spread the mystery of communion which is essential to her, and to gather all people and all things into Christ, so as to be for all an ‘inseparable sacrament of unity’” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 4).

It is in the interest of serving this will of Christ for his Church that this Commission is established, to organize the faithful to serve his desire for unity, to speak truth and seek to heal the division of error and misunderstanding, to witness the presence of Christ in our world and bring people together in the peace which can only be known through the encounter with Christ, our Lord.