Friday, August 19, 2005

Unity: Full, Visible and Practical

Benedict XVI has delivered his Address to the gathered ecumenical leaders at the Archbishop's Residence in Colgone. From the fulltext:
In ecumenical dialogue Germany has a place of particular importance. Not only is it the place where the Reformation began; it is also one of those countries where the ecumenical movement of the twentieth century originated. With the successive waves of immigration in the last century, Christians from the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Churches of the East also found a new homeland in this country. This certainly favoured greater contact and exchanges. Together we can rejoice in the fact that ecumenical dialogue, with the passage of time, has brought about a renewed sense of fraternity and has created a more open and trusting climate between Christians belonging to the various Churches and ecclesial Communities. My venerable Predecessor, in his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (1995) saw this as an especially significant fruit of dialogue (cf. Nos. 41ff; 64)....

I do not intend here to outline a programme for the immediate themes of dialogue - this task belongs to theologians working alongside the Bishops. I simply wish to make an observation: ecclesiological issues, and especially the question of the sacred ministry or priesthood, are inseparably linked with that of the relationship between Scripture and Church, that is to say the correct interpretation of the Word of God and its development within the life of the Church.

Another urgent priority in ecumenical dialogue arises from the great ethical questions of our time; in this area, modern research rightly expects a common response on the part of Christians, which, thanks be to God, has often been forthcoming. But not always, alas. Because of contradictory positions in these areas, our witness to the Gospel and the ethical guidance which we owe to the faithful and to society lose their impact and often appear too vague, with the result that we fail in our duty to provide the witness that is needed in our time. Our divisions are contrary to the will of Jesus and they disappoint the expectations of our contemporaries.

That last sentence (emphasis my own) is remarkable. Strong -- and intendedly so -- it is a consequential statement from a Pope still thought of in many quarters as the hammer of heresy and still viewed as the ultimate gatekeeper of Catholicism. The close is strong, drawing on the history of modern ecumenical relations and with praise of the progress it has made:

I see good reason for optimism in the fact that today a kind of “network” of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity. The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an “invisible cloister” which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church. I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves to the Lord’s prayer “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21), then this prayer, made in the name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. Jn 14:13; 15:7, 16, etc.). With the help that comes from on high, we will also find practical solutions to the different questions which remain open, and in the end our desire for unity will come to fulfilment, whenever and however the Lord wills. I invite all of you to join me in following this path.

"Practical solutions to the different questions which remain open." Practical. Not orthodox. Not repressive. Not exclusionary. Practical.

Score 10 for Christian Unity.

-30-

6 Comments:

Blogger Clayton said...

When did orthodox become a negative adjective? And everything B16 said -- seemed pretty orthodox to me.

19/8/05 13:14  
Blogger Tony said...

Wow! Talk about misunderstanding.
Our divisions are contrary to the will of Jesus and they disappoint the expectations of our contemporaries.
Of course our dividions are contrary to the will of Jesus. Do you remember "extra ecclesia nulla salus"? Jesus wants our separated bretheren back into the Catholic fold. He doesn't want us becoming Protestant.

And "practical solutions" does not mean "progressive" solutions, or "expedient" solutions or even "heterodox" solutions.

19/8/05 13:57  
Blogger Jeff said...

Tsk, tsk. Rocco has something here.

The Pope is talking about questions which remain OPEN. That COULD mean questions for which no binding Catholic answers exist, but there is another possibility.

It COULD mean answers to questions for which no JOINT AND AGREED solution has yet been found. And I think this is what it DOES mean.

The Pope looks at Ecumenism as a venture lasting centuries--perhaps millenia. No immediate fix is available. But, over time, if we concentrate on acting in concert and emphasizing our common features, God will draw us together. These "practical" solutions are the ones the Pope has in mind.

Example.

Nestorianism and Monophysitism are real heresies and heresies about Christ himself. But the existing Nestorian and Monophysite communities are quite close to the Catholic Church and many of them have BECOME Catholic. Protestantism taught us that Christology is expressed even more intimately as ECCLESIOLOGY, and there, these ancient heretical Churches are far, far closer to us, having the Sacraments and the Mass and the STRUCTURE of Churches. The juice has been drained out of the old controversies--insofar as they are living disputes between communities--and a practical approach has brought us together.

This is the path of the future, which does not require heterodoxy, just good will and the search for ways to exist and pray together. God does the rest.

19/8/05 15:20  
Blogger John Bianco said...

I fail to see what Rocco sees. Pope Benidict XVI from what I see made references to various Protestant denominations not being on the same page as the Catholic church when it comes to the moral issues of the day such as abortion, such as the issue of homsexuality(looking at how the ELCA almost apporved same sex marriage rites and clergy), ethics in medical research and so on. But hey, I guess things can be spun in any direction, ala either Begula or Rove.

19/8/05 17:53  
Blogger Gene O'Grady said...

I'll try to be irenaic.

Tony, the phrase is "nulla salus extra ecclesiam." And, remembering the church of the fifties with some fondness (better bishops, I'd say, but many more lousy priests than I've known in recent years), I recall that the phrase "separated brethren" was usually either ironic or embarrassed. In part the embarrassment was on the part of people who were honestly trying to move in a new direction and were learning to do it gracefully. But it has served its time and should be retired.

John Bianco, I find it hard to believe that Benedict is basically concerned with those issues as dividing various Christian communities. The ELCA (remember that "A" stands for America) vote has very little significance from a European perspective. If you happened to read Rowan Williams' statement on abortion before the British election (before I stopped reading Amy Welborn's blog I noticed he was a particular bete noire) I think you would find it not at a great distance from a Catholic perspective -- and a lot better written. I suspect the issues the pope is looking at have to do with more traditional theological issues, such as the nature of church and the sacraments, authority, the development of doctrine, and the function of priests and bishops.

19/8/05 23:44  
Blogger John Bianco said...

Pope Benidict XVI was talking about the great ethical questions of the time and the need for a common response, not about theology in the later part of his speech.

20/8/05 00:58  

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