Pontiff Points to 3 Keys for Ecumenical Progress, Resumption of Theological Dialogue Between Catholics and Orthodox

REGENSBURG, Germany, SEPT. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The three keys to making progress on the way to Christian unity are "confession" of Christ, witness and love, Benedict XVI said at an ecumenical gathering in Bavaria.

At the celebration of Vespers on Tuesday in the cathedral of Regensburg, attended by representatives of the Lutheran and Orthodox churches in Bavaria, the Pope highlighted the two key achievements of recent times. Those are: the signing by Catholics and Lutherans of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and the resumption of the theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox.

Looking toward the future of the ecumenical journey, the Holy Father reflected on the fourth chapter of the First Letter of St. John, which shortly before had resonated in the cathedral of Regensburg.

First, the Apostle John presents that which differentiates Christians: "the profession of faith, that is, the 'confessio,' which ultimately distinguishes us as Christians: faith in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God who has come in the flesh."

"In this time of interreligious encounters we are easily tempted to attenuate somewhat this central confession or indeed even to hide it," cautioned Benedict XVI. "But by doing this we do not do a service to encounter or dialogue. We only make God less accessible to others and to ourselves.

"It is important that we bring to the conversation not fragments, but the whole image of God. To be able to do so, our personal communion with Christ and our love of him must grow and deepen. In this common confession, and in this common task, there is no division between us. And we pray that this shared foundation will grow ever stronger."

Across barriers

Second, the Pope explained, this profession of faith in Christ, the only Savior of the human being, "must become witness."

The witness of Christians of the various communities must lead their contemporaries "across all the historical barriers … [to] perceive Jesus anew, the Son sent by God, in whom we see the Father," the Holy Father said. "To be a witness of Jesus Christ means above all to bear witness to a certain way of living.

"In a world full of confusion we must again bear witness to the standards that make life truly life. This important task, common to all Christians, must be faced with determination. It is the responsibility of Christians, now, to make visible the standards that indicate a just life, which have been clarified for us in Jesus Christ."

And third, the Bishop of Rome presented the word "agape" -- love -- as key in the advance toward full Christian unity.

In this connection, Benedict XVI recalled the passage of the New Testament on which he was commenting: "'We know and believe the love God has for us.' Yes, man can believe in love. Let us bear witness to our faith in such a way that it shines forth as the power of love, 'so that the world may believe.'"

(Posting date 18 September 2006; Zenit.org 13 September 2006)

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