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On Benedict XVI and Ecumenism

Interview With Professor Manuel González

CORDOBA, Spain, AUG. 22, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's pontificate has been "intensely ecumenical," says a professor who specializes in ecumenism.

Manuel González Muńana, professor of ecumenism at the San Pelagio Seminary in Cordoba, is author of "Ecumenismo y Nuevos Movimientos Eclesiales" (Ecumenism and New Ecclesial Movements), recently published by Monte Carmelo.

In this interview, the author points out how the new ecclesial movements are committed, at various levels, to the promotion of Christian unity.

Q: Ecumenism is one of the "best symphonies that must be played in the Church today." A very poetic phrase, but can it be realized?

González: If the division of Christians, says Vatican II, openly contradicts the will of Christ, it is a scandal for the world and harms the most holy cause of the preaching of the Gospel.

Full visible unity of the Churches would do away with that contradiction, avoid the scandal of humanity and favor evangelization. A difficult but feasible enterprise, because Christ's appeal to the Father: "That they may all be one," must be realized and because, moreover, all the Churches and ecclesial communities have undertaken with determination the path toward the common home, where one day they will celebrate, seated at the same and only table, the Easter of unity.

Q: According to you, there are three dimensions of ecumenism. Could you explain them?

González: The ecumenical movement is one, but it has three dimensions: spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral.

The spiritual is the most important, because full visible unity, being a gift that God must grant to the Church, must be asked of him. Prayer, with conversion of heart and holiness of life, are considered by Vatican II "as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement."

Doctrinal ecumenism covers knowledge of brothers through study, dialogue and the ecumenical formation of the whole people of God.

The pastoral includes the areas of the common witness of Christians, to the degree possible, and cooperation in the social field.

Q: The new ecclesial movements are, for example, the Focolarini, Regnum Christi, L'Arche Communities and Taizé, to mention only a few of those you study in your book in regard to ecumenism. Do all have a propensity to ecumenism?

González: All, because they are in some way offspring of Vatican II. Having been born in the theological-ecclesiological context of the Council, they bear the ecumenical imperative within themselves, though in a differentiated way.

In their statutes and rules quite a few of them specify concern for Christian unity; some are open and committed, though not directly, to the cause of unity.

Others were born by and for ecumenism, their reason for being and acting being the full visible unity of Christians.

Q: Do you think it is evident that Benedict XVI is an ecumenical Pontiff? What do you expect from him, ecumenically speaking?

González: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election as Pope is an enormous gift of God to the Church at this time.

His close to two years of pontificate, one can say without the fear of being mistaken, have been two intensely ecumenical years with Orthodox, Lutherans, Protestants and Anglicans; they have been so habitual, that they are a strong appeal for Christian unity to many consciences which are somewhat inactive ecumenically.

Along with many other ecumenists, I hope that, in the course of his pontificate, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, will make an important ecumenical decision, given that ecumenism, which progresses at a good pace at theological levels, needs, as I see it, at the more popular levels, a salutary shock that will have a positive impact.

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