2012-11-15 13:42:05

Pope: Importance of ecumenism for new evangelisation

(Vatican Radio) The scandal of divided Christian witness and the importance of working for the full, visible unity of the Church was at the heart of Pope Benedict’s words on Thursday to members of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity who are holding their plenary assembly here in Rome this week.

As Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen reports, the theme of the five day Council meeting is ‘The significance of ecumenism for the New Evangelisation’

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In his words in Italian to participants, Pope Benedict stressed the importance of witnessing together to the living God, despite our continuing divisions and difficulties…

Dare infatti testimonianza del Dio vivente, che si è fatto vicino in Cristo, è l’imperativo più urgente per tutti i cristiani, ed è anche un imperativo che ci unisce, malgrado l’incompleta comunione ecclesiale che tutt’ora sperimentiamo

The spiritual poverty of many people today, the Pope noted, is a challenge for all Christians and he said the commitment of other Churches for renewed evangelisation is also a sign of hope. Echoing the words of the Second Vatican Council decree on ecumenism ‘Unitatis redintegratio’, the Pope said our continuing divisions openly contradict the will of Christ and are a source of scandal which damage our credibility and our ability to preach the Gospel to all people.

In Ukraine today we experience the opposite side of that – each time when all the different Christian Churches make their statements together, their voice is very strong…”

42 year old archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk heads the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine and is one of the newer participants at this week’s meeting. He spoke with Vatican Radio and Catholic News Service about the many challenges of working for full Christian unity in today’s world….

"In this meeting, I discovered many different ways of understanding ecumenism........."

Below is a summary in English of Pope Benedict's speech by the Vatican Information Service:

The Pope stated, "We cannot follow a truly ecumenical path while ignoring the crisis of faith affecting vast areas of the world, including those where the proclamation of the Gospel was first accepted and where Christian life has flourished for centuries. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the many signs indicating a persistent need for spirituality, which is made manifest in various ways. The spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries, who no longer perceive the absence of God in their lives as a form of deprivation, poses a challenge to all Christians".
In this context, the Pope added, "we, believers in Christ, are called upon to return to the essential, to the heart of our faith, to bear witness to the living God before the world. … We must not forget what it is that unites us: our faith in God the Father and Creator, revealed in His Son Jesus Christ, effusing the Spirit which revives and sanctifies. This is the faith we received in Baptism and it is the faith that, in hope and charity, we can profess together.
"In the light of the primacy of faith we may also understand the importance of the theological dialogues and conversations in which the Catholic Church is engaged with Churches and ecclesial communities. Even when we cannot discern the possibility of re-establishing full communion in the near future, such dialogue facilitates our awareness, not only of resistance and obstacles, but also of the richness of experience, spiritual life and theological reflection, which become a stimulus for ever deeper testimony".
Benedict XVI emphasised that the aim of ecumenism is "visible unity between divided Christians". To this end, we must "dedicate all our forces, but we must also recognise that, in the final analysis, this unity is a gift from God, and may come to us only from the Father through His Son, because the Church is His Church. From this perspective we see, not only the importance of invoking the Lord for visible unity, but also how striving after this end is relevant to the new evangelisation.
"It is good to journey together towards this objective, provided that the Churches and ecclesial communities do not stop along the way, accepting the various contradictions between them as normal or as the best they can hope to achieve. It is, rather, in the full communion of faith, Sacraments and ministry that the strength of God, present and working in the world, will find concrete expression".
The Pope concluded, "Unity is on the one hand the fruit of faith and, on the other, a means - almost a prerequisite - for an increasingly credible proclamation of the faith to those who do not yet know the Saviour or who, while having received the proclamation of the Gospel, have almost forgotten this valuable gift. True ecumenism, recognising the primacy of divine action, demands above all patience, humility, and abandonment to the will of the Lord. In the final analysis, ecumenism and new evangelisation both require the dynamism of conversion, understood as the sincere desire to follow Christ and to fully adhere to the will of the Father".

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