Social Doctrine Seen as Aid to Ecumenism

Pre-consistory Meeting Focuses on Christ's Prayer for Unity

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Church's social doctrine has become one of the most promising areas for ecumenical progress, say the cardinals who met with Benedict XVI today.

The cardinals, in Rome in preparation for Saturday's consistory, gathered during a day of prayer and reflection to consider the current state of ecumenism and its possibilities. The Pope chose the theme.

The meeting, the second of this type in Benedict XVI's pontificate, began with a greeting from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former secretary of state. Cardinal Sodano's 80th birthday was today, so the Pope began his introductory discourse by congratulating him.

The Holy Father then went on to propose to the cardinals a reflection on "ecumenical dialogue in the light of the Lord’s prayer and command: 'Ut unum sint'" (that they may be one).

A Vatican press office communiqué summarized the conclusions of the first part of the day of reflection.

Panorama

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave an introductory address, describing the features of "the current panorama of dialogue and ecumenical relations."

The cardinal analyzed three main areas: relations with Eastern and Orthodox Churches, with the communities born of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, and relations with charismatic and Pentecostal movements that have developed mostly in the past century.

Cardinal Kasper presented “the results achieved in each of these areas, describing the path traveled until now and existing problems," the communiqué explained.

Then, the statement added, he asked for discussion among the cardinals, “during which there was an open exchange of experiences and opinions, which reflected an assortment of situations.”

Progress

The communiqué continued: “Seventeen cardinals spoke, touching on different problems, among them the ecumenical commitment of Christians in the areas of social and charitable work, and in defending moral values in transforming modern societies.

"In particular, they presented the Church’s social doctrine and its application as one of the most promising fields for ecumenism.

"They spoke of the commitment to continue the 'purification of memory' and using methods of communicating that consider the feelings of other Christians. They suggested going more in depth into the possibilities of ecumenical developments."

The cardinals also noted recent significant events in ecumenical dialogue, including the assembly in Sibiu, Romania, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II's visit to Paris.

The Holy See statement said the cardinals concluded the morning session of the meeting by speaking in general terms about the relationships with Judaism, and interreligious dialogue.

The meeting recommenced in the afternoon, with a free exchange of ideas about the life of the Church in general and a concluding discourse by the Holy Father.