by Sarah Albertini-Bond

I have a memory from my days in grammar school when one of the nuns told us school kids in St. Matthias that the word Catholic meant “universal”. She went on to explain that Catholicism is so obvious, so universal, that’s why we called our church that name.

In the spirit of that universality I welcome the Anglican Church to our Catholic Church. At the same time I call upon Pope Benedict XVI to open up the doors not only to Anglicans who feel disenfranchised by the rise of women within the Anglican Church but the entire Anglican Church – including those that welcome women to their pastoral ranks. We should not be limiting which Anglicans we welcome in, but rather opening up our hearts and churches to allow everyone – Anglican and non-Anglican – a place around Christ’s table. All those who believe in Jesus Christ should be welcomed – as Jesus himself said “I will not reject anyone who comes to me…”. If Jesus will accept anyone who comes to Him, so too should the Catholic Church. Additionally there should be a call out to those who’ve left the Church over feeling excluded to remind them that we are the universal church; that not only do we welcome them back but we don’t believe they’ve ever left. That is what I wish the Pope would have said or what he’ll say tomorrow.

We are the universal church – katholikos in Greek. We should have lived up to our very name and been so open and obvious that there never should have been any exclusion of anyone at anytime. This invitation to rejoin the Catholic Church should not only to be Anglicans but to all everywhere. We should be flinging open our arms and embrace everyone who joins us – whether or not we agree with them. I may not always agree with my Anglican brothers and sisters, but I welcome them to the table, and I will be stronger for their prayers for me and I hope my prayers for them will help them on their journey. My only regret is that there aren’t more around the table from other faiths. That somehow the Catholic Church has seemingly come to mean something other than universal.

I doubt the Pope will say all this in the near future, but I am reminded of my favorite line from the New Testament: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” I have not seen that which I long to see, but I have faith that someday I will. To those who do not feel welcome in this universal church I ask you to keep faith.

Sarah Albertini-Bond remembers many things from her 17 years of Catholic school, but probably not what the teachers hoped she’d remember. She lives in Virginia Beach.


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