Pope Benedict Xvi and Ecumenism

by Michael Potemra

Evidence continues to mount that the Catholic cardinals made an inspired choice in last April’s conclave. Italian Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister reports that Pope Benedict, in his August 19 remarks to non-Catholic Christians in Cologne, made some additions to his prepared text that nearly doubled the length of the speech. What he added was a forceful explanation of the ecumenical project: “It is said that . . . ecclesiological issues and the questions concerning ministry are the main obstacles still to be overcome. In short, this is true, but I must also say that I dislike this terminology, which from a certain point of view delimits the problem since it seems that we must now debate about institutions instead of the Word of God, as though we had to place our institutions in the centre and fight for them. I think that in this way the ecclesiological issue as well as that of the ‘ministerium’ are not dealt with correctly. The real question is the presence of the Word in the world.” The quest for unity—mandated, let us remember, by the religion’s Founder–is not a struggle of institutional one-upmanship. Pope Benedict could not have been clearer, as he went on to stress that ecumenical “unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity . . .” And in his conclusion, he exhorted: “Let us all go along this path in the awareness that walking together is a form of unity.” Cardinal Ratzinger was impressive as a theologian; he continues to impress as Pope.

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