Pontiff Notes a Catholic-Lutheran "Togetherness"
Points to Future of Hope, Despite Difficulties
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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that what has already been achieved between Catholics and Lutherans on the path to unity reinforces trust that the dialogue will continue.
The Pope said this today when he received in audience a delegation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, in Rome for the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The week of prayer ends Tuesday with the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
"Despite the theological differences that continue to exist on questions that in part are fundamental, a 'togetherness' has grown between us, which becomes increasingly the basis of a communion lived in faith and in spirituality between Lutherans and Catholics," he said. "What has already been achieved reinforces our trust in continuing the dialogue, because only in this way can we stay together on that way that, finally, is Jesus Christ himself."
The Holy Father admitted he shares the concern of many Christians that "the fruits of the ecumenical endeavor, above all in relation to the idea of Church and ministry, are still not sufficiently received by the ecumenical interlocutors."
"For some contemporaries," he said, "the common goal of full and visible unity of Christians seems to be again today very far. The ecumenical interlocutors in the dialogue have ideas on the unity of the Church that are completely different."
"However," the Pontiff affirmed, "even if new difficulties always arise, we look with hope to the future."
The Holy Spirit will guide us, he assured.
Benedict XVI affirmed that for both Lutherans and Catholics, ecumenical dialogue is now an integral part of the reality and life of faith.
He mentioned the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther's theses, which will be marked in 2017.
"On that occasion, Lutherans and Catholics will have the opportunity to celebrate throughout the world a common ecumenical commemoration, to fight at the world level for fundamental questions, not -- as you yourself have just said -- under the form of a triumphant celebration, but as a common profession of our faith in the One and Triune God, in the common obedience to Our Lord and to his Word," the Pope said.
In this context, he encouraged common prayer "for forgiveness of mutual wrongs and for the fault related to the divisions."
"Part of this purification of the conscience," the Pontiff suggested, is a common review of the 1,500 years that preceded the Protestant Reformation, the years "which are common to us."
"For this," he said, "we wish to implore together, in a constant way, the help of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to be able to take further steps toward the unity that we long for, and to not be satisfied with where we are now."
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