Evangelical Catholic Pope Addresses Evangelical Protestant Church in Germany
Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God
It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds.The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world
Pastor Schneider and Pope Benedict XVI
ERFURT, Germany (Catholic Online) - In 1990 my first full length book was published. It caused quite a stir in some circles. It was entitled "Evangelical Catholics" and subtitled "A Call for Christian Cooperation to penetrate the darkness with the light of the Gospel". One of my lifelong heroes, evangelical protestant Christian Chuck Colson, wrote the forward. It was a courageous act back then. For doing so, he was - and still is in some circles - pilloried.
The claim and challenge of the book was controversial back then, in both Catholic and Protestant circles. I maintained that 'evangelical" was an adjective that should characterize all Christians and that our evangelical core and calling must bring us together in an age which has lost its way. All these years later, the term and the claim are now broadly accepted.
On Friday, September 23, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI went to the Augustinian monastery where Martin Luther had first lived out his response to his vocation. The successor of the Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, spoke to the representatives of the EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland), a federation of 22 Lutheran, Unified and Reformed Protestant regional church bodies in Germany.
In his first Papal message he proclaimed, "Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration.
"Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Lk 22: 32). With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty."
Pope Benedict XVI is showing us the way. He is also implementing the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the section entitled "Wounds to Unity":
"817 In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame." The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism - do not occur without human sin: Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.
818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."
819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth" are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements." Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."
820 "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time." Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me." The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit."
Here is the full text of the Pope's remarks:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I begin to speak, I would like first of all to thank you for this opportunity to come together with you. ...
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