One of the fascinating features of Barth’s later letters is his ongoing (and increasingly fruitful) ecumenical dialog with Catholics. Here is part of a letter he wrote to some Catholic sisters at the Institute of the Sacred Heart of Mary (Hannut, Belgium), dated February 12, 1962.
You are right to tell me that much of the route to the unity of the church is laid when we come together again in love. Being the friend of many Roman Catholic theologians, I add that I am happy to affirm that in truth as well we have come closer on both sides than could ever have been imagined fifty years ago. One thing is certain: the more both your theology and ours concentrate on the person and work of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, our sovereign Lord and only Savior, the more we shall find ourselves already united in spite of some important differences. Do you not also think the day will one day come when we shall no longer speak of Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians but simply of Evangelical Christians forming one body and one people? Veni Creator Spiritus. [Come Creator Spirit]
Geoffrey Bromily (trans.), Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968, #25 (p. 34-35)
Despite his clear disagreements with the papacy on some very important points (my friend Wyatt posted a different letter of Barth’s which highlights some of them), this letter seems to betray genuine optimism regarding unity within the church…. not a unity that compromises truth (as though the differences don’t matter), but a unity that enters more deeply into the truth, sharing a common Christological center.