Christians of practically all the major denominations accept the Nicene Creed as a valid profession of their faith.  Those who recite this creed in their Sunday worship service, as we Catholics do, will easily remember that in it we profess our faith in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”  Not only the Church itself, but also its unity, its holiness, its catholicity, and its apostolicity are the  objects of our faith.

In other words, we believe that the church is not a merely human organization, and therefore subject to inevitable decay and dissolution, like the great empires of world history; it is a work of God, and “the powers of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  Likewise, to say that the church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic is to profess our faith that each of these attributes is a gift which Jesus has bestowed on his bride, the Church, and that His promise to abide with His church to the end of time includes the divine guarantee that it will always remain substantially the same church – hence always one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Each of these gifts of Jesus is also a demand which He makes upon His church.  Jesus is saying to His bride; “You are one, then be one; you are holy, then be holy; you are catholic, then be catholic; you are apostolic, then be apostolic!”

History tells us only too clearly that in its obedience to these imperatives the church shows itself to be a mixture of divine gifts and human frailty.  We believe that the church of Jesus is one, and yet over the centuries many groups have broken away, even in recent times with Pentecostal and Assembly of God communities.  It is plain to see how poorly we Christians have obeyed Jesus’        command to be one.

The foundation of the ecumenical movement is the two-fold conviction that the Church of Jesus is one by His gift – and at the same time must become much more one than it presently is.  The goal of the ecumenical movement is a church that not only would be more one but also more holy, more catholic, and more apostolic than any individual Christian church is or could be in the present state of Christian disunity.

Let us not fall prey to the temptation to continue the fragmentation of the Church of Jesus.  Let us instead work to strengthen and build up the Church of Jesus so that it will be exactly what Jesus wanted it to be, a community of believers who are one, holy, catholic and apostolic.