Beginning in the mid-20th century, the leaders of the Catholic Church have chosen to place a high priority on forging stronger ties between Catholics and members of other religions. They have sought to emphasize shared beliefs, to increase mutual understanding, and to create a more cohesive spiritual presence in an increasingly secular world. The Second Vatican Council took pains to explain the relationship of the Church to other religions, and every pope since the Council has continued to seek better relations with all men and women of good will, but particularly with those who have most in common with the Church, namely Protestants, the Orthodox, and Jews.
For example, in his January 17th address at the Great Synagogue, Francis emphasized:
In interreligious dialogue it is fundamental that we encounter each other as brothers and sisters before our Creator and that we praise him; and that we respect and appreciate each other, and try to cooperate. And in the Jewish-Christian dialogue there is a unique and particular bond, by virtue of the Jewish roots of Christianity; Jews and Christians must therefore consider themselves brothers, united in the same God and by a rich common spiritual patrimony [cf. Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), n. 4], on which to build and to continue building in the future.Similarly, the Pope devoted his January 20th general audience to a catechesis on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He explained:
When we Christians speak of sharing in one Baptism, we affirm that we all—Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox—share in the experience of being called out of the merciless and alienating darkness to the encounter with the living God, full of mercy…. Starting anew from Baptism means rediscovering the font of mercy…. The sharing of this grace creates an indissoluble bond between us as Christians, such that, by virtue of Baptism, we can consider ourselves truly brothers and sisters…. The mercy of God, who acts in Baptism, is stronger than our divisions…. We Christians can proclaim to all people the power of the Gospel by committing ourselves to sharing in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. This is a concrete testimony of unity among us Christians: Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic.But it seems to me that the Pope has an advantage in these matters which the rest of Catholics lack, and which we can be sure is never far from the minds of Protestants, the Orthodox and Jews. These know, in an oppositional way sometimes overlooked by Catholics, that the Pope stands for the fullness of faith and authority of the Catholic Church. In attending to the Pope’s quest for unity, none of these other believers supposes for a moment that the Pope will eliminate differences by abandoning the Catholic Faith. He will not deny that Christ is God to promote unity with the Jews, nor abandon his ecclesiastical jurisdiction to eliminate divisions with the Orthodox, nor declare the seven sacraments optional to conciliate Protestants.