So sayeth the Pope.

At a January 25 Vespers service closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Benedict XVI said that ecumenical work is a “moral imperative” for all Christians.

The Holy Father reminded the congregation at the basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls that Jesus prayed for unity among the faithful. That unity, he said, “cannot be reduced to recognizing our reciprocal differences and achieving peaceful coexistence.” The followers of Christ cannot be satisfied until they have achieved full communion, he said.

True Christian unity, the Pope continued, “cannot be realized only at the level of organizational structures,” but must be forged among the faithful, “confessing the one faith, celebrating divine worship in common, and keeping the fraternal harmony of the family of God.”

Yes, but as the Pope said we are not required to believe in the kind of ecumenism in which differences are swept under the rug. Or and ecumenism in which we protestantize our faith. No, I believe in an ecumenism in which well meaning Christians of various stripes eventually realize the utter failure of their brand of Christianity to hold the true faith, to protect it, and to pass it on. And when they do, we are happy to welcome them home.

Ecumenism is being like the father in the parable of the prodigal son. We keep our arms and hearts open for when you realize the error of your ways.