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Ecumenism: The American Way



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John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, is a truly indispensable journalist. Most of his scoops, understandably, have to do with the actions and controversies of the leaders of the Catholic Church in Vatican City. But in his latest column, he tells a wonderful story about spending Easter in a small town in Kansas: “When we arrived, [my wife and I] learned that the Ministerial Alliance, an ecumenical coalition of the various Christian denominations in town, had pooled $1800 to rent the local cinema for free showings of ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ open to anyone who wanted to come. For three nights, Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and Lutherans sat shoulder by shoulder, then went out for coffee, pie, and conversation. . . . This was not a one-off event. On April 9, the Ministerial Alliance held its annual Unity Service at the local Christian Church, a liturgy celebrating common Christian identity rooted in baptism. A similar event took place around the same time in a neighboring town, and Hill City’s Catholic pastor, Fr. Don McCarthy, cited the sermon given by the Methodist minister that day in his own Easter homily. The gesture seemed to encapsulate the close relationship among the town’s ministers. Hill City’s churches hold an annual picnic together, they sponsor a food pantry together . . . The churches also pray for one another during Sunday services.” Allen says his grandmother can still remember a time, some 50 years ago, when Hill City Protestants tried to prevent the construction of a Catholic Church; those days are over. This vignette from America’s Heartland says great things about our country–the kind of stuff we think about on the Fourth of July. Whenever we think about our soldiers in Iraq, we should reflect that we have a very high national purpose: to help the rest of the world enjoy some things we take for granted.



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