2008-01-19 07:48:26

Pope Says Prayer is "Royal Door to Ecumenism"

(18 Jan 08 - RV) Pope Benedict XVI met with a Lutheran delegation from Finland Friday, the first day of the annual week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Philippa Hitchen has this report...

They had come to Rome to take part in ceremonies and prayer gatherings that are an essential aspect of the week, which this year marks the hundredth anniversary of its inauguration, by Father Paul Wattson in Garrison New York, as the “Church Unity Octave”. This year the theme for reflection is taken from St Pauls Letter to the Thessolonians “Pray without caseing”. Speaking to the delegation Friday Pope Benedict said prayer indeed is “the royal door of ecumenism: such prayer leads us to look at the Kingdom of God and the unity of the Church in a fresh way; it reinforces our bonds of communion; and it enables us to face courageously the painful memories, social burdens and human weaknesses that are so much a part of our divisions".

The appeal to “pray without ceasing” he added, “also reminds us that authentic life in communion is possible only when doctrinal agreements and formal statements are constantly guided by the light of the Holy Spirit”

Here the Pope was refering specifically to the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue in Finland and Sweden concerning central matters of the Christian faith, including the question of justification in the life of the Church. This dialogue has made positive advances in recent years, a vsisble sign of this progress was the Lutheran delegations participation in the official opening of the Week of Prayer, Thursday evening in the Church of the Sisters of St Brigid in Rome.

Cardinal Walter Kapser president of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of Christian Unity led the prayer service in the tiny chapel just off Piazza Farnese,

In his conlcuding remarks to the delegation Friday the Pope said he hoped ongoing dialogue would lead to practical results in actions which express and build up unity in Christ between Catholics and Lutherans in Finland. He said “in the new and challenging circumstances of Europe today, and within your own country, there is much that Lutherans and Catholics can do together in the service of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God”.

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