As I have started to read Iam vos Omnes I am struck, first, by the ecumenical call, as in multi-denominational ecumenism, that Pope Pius IX makes.
We cannot refrain Ourselves, on the occasion of the future Council, from addressing Our Apostolic and paternal words to all those who, whilst they acknowledge the same Jesus Christ as the Redeemer, and glory in the name of Christian.
Iam vos Omnes
I’ve always kind of thought that the Catholic Church didn’t really care about Protestants until about Vatican II, and then they seemed to care so much for Protestants that they may have gotten a little carried away in softening some of our devotional practices. But here it is, an acknowledgement of brotherhood, in more subtle words, because they acknowledge Christ as redeemer and find glory in the name of Christian.
The letter does go on to exhort the separated Christians to examine the fruits of the sectarianism of the Protestant movement, to determine whether it really is possible to reconcile the results and premises with the desires of Jesus Christ and the Scriptural establishment of his Church.
In the end, though, this letter finds its true heart in my opinion:
Wherefore, let all those who do not hold to the unity and truth of the Catholic Church avail themselves of the opportunity of this Council, whereby the Catholic Church, of which their forefathers were members, displays a fresh proof of her perfect unity and her unconquerable vitality; and let them, in obedience to the longings of their own hearts, be in haste to rescue themselves from a state in which they cannot be assured of their own salvation. And let them not cease to offer most fervent prayers to the God of Mercy, that he may break down the wall of separation, that he may scatter the mists of error, and that he may lead them back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church, where their fathers found the wholesome pastures of life, and in which alone the doctrine of Jesus Christ is preserved and handed down entire, and the mysteries of heavenly grace dispensed.
As for Us, seeing that We ought, in accordance with the duty of Our supreme Apostolic Ministry entrusted to Us by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, to fulfill with most fervent zeal all the offices of a good Shepherd, and with paternal love to follow and embrace all men throughout all the world — We therefore address this Our Letter to all Christians separated from Us, wherein We exhort and entreat them, again and again, to hasten their return to the One Fold of Christ.
After reading through this letter, penned in 1868, in advance of the first Vatican Council, I will not be able to understand how anyone could imply that the Church has changed its teaching in the second Vatican Council. It is here that the Church calls men outside her walls “Christian” and considers that they are separated from us. And while their is reason to believer that they cannot be assured of their salvation in their wandering state, she neither condemns them a state of being unable to be saved while separated.
We need to, as members of the Church, embrace our brethren and continue the work of the first Vatican Council in conversing with them and bringing them back to the one fold which is filled with the innumerable blessings of the deposit of the faith.