Thursday, May 25, 2006

Summary of Ecumenical Meeting

At 5.30 p.m. today, the Holy Father traveled to the presidential palace in Warsaw, where he paid a courtesy visit to Lech Kaczynski, president of the Republic of Poland. During the visit he also greeted the prime minister, and the two presidents of the country's parliament.
Following his meeting with the Polish president, Benedict XVI moved on to the Lutheran church of the Most Holy Trinity where he met delegates from the seven Churches that form the Polish Council for Ecumenism (PRE): Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, Methodists, Baptists, Old Catholic Mariavite Church, Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Poland, Evangelical Reformed, and Polish Catholic. Since 1970, the PRE has supported theological dialogue with the Catholic Church, and met with John Paul II in Poland during his pastoral visits to the country.
In the church of the Most Holy Trinity, site of numerous ecumenical encounters, John Paul II presided over an ecumenical service for unity on June 9, 1991.
Addressing those present, Benedict XVI said: "Together with you I give thanks for the gift of this encounter of common prayer. I see it as a stage in the implementation of the firm purpose I expressed at the beginning of my pontificate, to consider a priority in my ministry the restoration of full visible unity among Christians."
The Pope went on to refer to the "responsibility" inherent in announcing the message of Christ. A message which "must reach everyone on earth, thanks to the commitment of those who believe in Him and who are called to bear witness that He is truly sent by the Father. ... The task of Christ's disciples, the task of each of us, is therefore to tend towards ... unity, in such a way that we become, as Christians, the visible sign of His saving message, addressed to every human being."
The Pope recalled the words pronounced in the same church by John Paul II: "The seriousness of the task prohibits all haste or impatience, but the duty to respond to Christ's will demands that we remain firm on the path towards peace and unity among all Christians."
"Since that encounter, much has changed," Pope Benedict continued. "God has granted us to take many steps towards mutual understanding and rapprochement." In this context, he mentioned "the publication of the Encyclical Letter 'Ut Unum Sint;' the Christological agreements with the pre-Chalcedonian Churches; the signing at Augsburg of the 'Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification;' ... the ecumenical memorial of twentieth-century witnesses of faith," and the great ecumenical initiatives in Poland.
"We note much progress in the field of ecumenism and yet we always await something more," said the Pope, going on to focus on two specific issues: "The charitable service of the Churches," and "married life and family life."
"We cannot forget," he said, "the essential idea that from the outset constituted the very firm foundation for the disciples' unity: 'within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life.' This idea is always current. ... Accepting contemporary charitable challenges depends in large measure on our mutual cooperation. ... I note with appreciation that in the community of the Catholic Church and in other Churches and ecclesial communities, various new forms of charitable activity have spread and old ones have reappeared with renewed vigor. They are forms which often combine evangelization and works of charity. It seems that, despite all the differences that need to be overcome in the sphere of interdenominational dialogue, it is legitimate to attribute charitable commitment to the ecumenical community of Christ's disciples in search of full unity. We can all collaborate in helping the needy, by exploiting this network of reciprocal relations which is the fruit of dialogue among ourselves and of joint action."
On the second issue, the Pope noted how, "in today's world, in which international and intercultural relations are multiplying, it happens increasingly often that young people from different traditions, different religions, or different Christian denominations, decide to start a family." This is often "a difficult decision that brings with it various dangers concerning perseverance in the faith, the future structuring of the family, and the creation of an atmosphere of unity within the family. ... Nevertheless, thanks to the spread of ecumenical dialogue on a larger scale, the decision can lead to the formation of a practical workshop of unity."
The Holy Father concluded by expressing his appreciation to the Bilateral Commission of the Council for Ecumenical Issues of the Polish Episcopal Conference and to the Polish Council for Ecumenism, "which have begun to draft a document presenting common Christian teaching on marriage and family life and establishing principles acceptable to all for contracting interdenominational marriages, indicating a common program of pastoral care for such marriages

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