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Ecumenism has drawn Christians closer, says Pope

By on Thursday, 20 January 2011

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves his weekly general audience (Photo: CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves his weekly general audience (Photo: CNS)

The search for Christian unity has not been easy, but it already has drawn Christians closer to one another and made Christianity more attractive to those who do not believe, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

A sense of brotherhood among Christians “is the most tangible sign of unity, especially for those outside” the Christian community, the Pope said yesterday at his weekly general audience.

As he does each year at his audience during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Benedict dedicated his talk to explaining the theme chosen by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches for the week.

The theme for 2011 was: “One in the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.”

Pope Benedict said the theme, drawn from the Acts of the Apostles, contains the four characteristics that made the early Church in Jerusalem “a place of unity and love”.

The first, essential characteristic, he said, is that Christians remain faithful to the Gospel and the teaching of the Apostles, which is the foundation of Christian faith.

Second, he said, there is fellowship and fraternity, the experience of each person sharing and caring for one another.

“The history of the ecumenical movement is marked by difficulties and uncertainties, but it also is a story of brotherhood and co-operation, of spiritual and human sharing, which has significantly changed relations between believers in the Lord Jesus. All of us are committed to continuing on this path.”

The Pope told the estimated 2,500 people at his audience: “Communion with God creates communion among us and must necessarily be expressed in concrete communion,” and sharing with one another. “No one in the community should be hungry, should be poor. This is a basic obligation,” he said.

The third element is participating together in “the breaking of the bread,” in which Christ makes himself present, the Pope said. Sharing the Eucharist is the sign of fully sharing faith, which is why the Catholic Church insists that divided Christians cannot normally share Communion, he said.

Especially during the week of prayer, he said, Christians should feel “regret for the impossibility” of sharing the Eucharist.

The fourth characteristic of a united community is a constant tendency toward prayer, he said. In prayer, people recognise themselves as children of God and, therefore, brothers and sisters to one another, the Pope said.

  • Fred Hoeck

    Ecumenism is not working. I live in what has been a Catholic part of the country, but when I read discussion board locally on religion, there is nothing but Catholic bashing. There are many people who are making their own “church” and don’t want anything to do withe The One True Church. They consider us idol worshipers and devil worshippers. The latest is bashing the proposed Beatification of Pope John Paul II, they say no one should pray to “dead” people, only God. They bash our devotion to Mary and other Saints. Several of us try to reason with them, but they are set. There may be some joint dialogue with the original Protestant heretics, but this growing “non-denominational” group which seems to be growing want nothing to do with us.
    We also need to remember the Popes who taught that Christian Unity will be achieved with the return of the dissents to the Church.

  • Kyriakos

    Well dear look out of UK .Look to the east and original Churches from the Catholic theological point of view.Eastern Orthodox Churches especially.
    Well with the non-denominational fellows some of these guys are stupids who simply want to express their opinions and who are not interested to know the truth. They fear to study the Word of God scientifically and reasonably because they fear they might lose their faith. Their aversion to scientific Biblical study is a defence mechanism.They fear they might lose faith.So they cling to some naive interpretations and conclusions. Most of their under educated pastors know the 19th century twisted Church history and anti-catholic polemics.

    When you meet some reasonable non-denominational believers tell them that the 27 books in the N.T Bible was decided by the Catholic Church by the end of the 4th century( Synod of Hippo, in 393 AD).What they take us Word of God has been decided by the Catholic Church.Or in other words they are unknowingly accepting the authority of the Catholic Church.

    The trinitartian dogma also in the 4th century, the divinity of Jesus as we understand also in the 4th century (council of Nicea, AD 325).These are some of the things they take for granted. Well these are facts which you can use to convince them that with Bible alone we cannot understand the Word of God.We require magisterium and ecumenical councils,factors outside the Bible to understand the Bible.
    Well they may say that infant baptism is invalid.Tell them that Jesus told that kingdom of heaven is for those who are like children and rebuked the disciples who prevented infant from coming to him. The first century Didache speaks of baptism by pouring on the head(the fundamentalists believe only in baptism by immersion) and that the faith of the believers substitute for that of the infant as we see in the case of some of Jesus’ healing.

    Also to understand Christianity and the Catholic Chuirch invite reasonable fundamentalists to read the Biblical writers 1st century onwards most of them known as the Fathers of the Church.

    I thought of answering the fundamentals before going to idol worship and other allegations made by these people.
    BUT NEVER FORGET THAT THERE ARE MANY TRUE CHRISTIANS IN THESE FUNDAMENTALIST GROUPS WHO ARE THERE SIMPLY BECAUSE OF IGNORANCE. ALSO,LOT OF PEOPLE JOIN THESE GROUPS FOR A FULFILLING CHRISTIAN LIFE WHICH THEY SAY(their opinion) LACK IN ESTABLISHED DENOMINATIONS.IT IS A SAD TRUTH THAT DUE TO MISINFORMATION EVEN GOOD WILLED CATHOLICS JOIN THESE GROUPS AND BECOME ANTI-CATHOLIC.

  • Fred Hoeck

    Thanks for the ideas. But the people on this local discussion board have been told many of them and they still persist in Catholic bashing. For instance, a recent post on the upcoming Beatification of Pope John Paul II has quickly spun down to an argument against saints, miracles, praying to Mary and the saints, etc. It is an argument to no end. They have posted parts of the Catechism and whereas we know them to be true they think they print them to ridicule.

    This is in Maryland in the United States. St. Mary’s County, the site of the first Catholic Mass in the English speaking colonies.

    I will save your points for use against them.

  • Kyriakos

    I will come to you in a few hours brother in Christ

  • Kyriakos

    Well my dear brother in Christ, happy to know that you have got some ideas from my comments.Remember what I told you stupids are there only to give their view points,but not understand the truth. The Catholic Church would be blessed without them. I have only given you a concise version of those facts actually. Please don’t even bother to answer such shallow minded. They are fanatics with a cult like sectarian spirit. Pray for them. Prayer will work miracles in ways we will find surprising. But to others enter into a Christian dialogue not to argue,but to respectfully give your view point. Remember that they are images of God and fellow Christians.Well before all these dialogues you should have good knowledge of Church history, Catholic faith, good lo and some theology.That is defintely possible for a lay person.

    Idol worship- In the OT(Old Testament) God forbid worshiping in any form, because God had no form(Moses did not see any form when God appeared to him). But in the New Testament(NT) the God of the OT toke human form ie incarnated in Jesus(became a ‘living icon’ in the words of the NT).So we can represent God using icons(In eastern Christianity means images) or statues.This true logic behind placing icons or statues of Jesus. Well some Protestants are unfortunately not intelligent to grasp this logic.But intelligent Protestant Christian brothers and learned pastors of established Protestant denominations would understand this rationale quickly. Well fundamentalists will ask you whether that was told in the Bible to do so. You can answer them that statues where used in some occasions in OT(Cherubs, bronze serpent etc by Israelites). Secondly you could tell them that since you believe in Trinity(not explicitly said in the Bible), Jesus who was not created by the Father, and 27 books in the NT which itself is not given in the Bible but authoritatively defined by the Church(ascending Jesus told the Apostles that he will be with them till the end of time) this also should be accepted as something infallible,authoritative and useful to the believers.Tell them they cannot cherry pick from the ancient Church what only like they.

    Catholics don’t worship saints.So placing their statutes does not come under the relm of idol worship.We venerate them.That is, respect them or love those brothers and sisters for their exemplary Christian life. Well you could inform them that the early Christians venerated the martyrs. They would even collect the blood of bleeding martyrs as holy relics which would work wonders. Remind them that it was this Church which venerated Martyrs which proclaimed the trinity,Bible books and divinity of Jesus in the following centuries. Tell them better believe in all of this Church’s tradition or none. Either all of the dogmas and traditions of the ancient Church are true or if not none. Tell them it is ignorance, prejudice of generations and madness to bash the Catholic Church. Some would argue that it was Constantine who established the Catholic Church.Well all the above said teachings come after Constantine. Then better they don’t believe in these. Some would put the origin of the Catholic Church in the 5th century. There are innumerable facts to show the fallacy of that stupid argument from the Fathers of the Church.And Mary is the mother of God. Don’t you remember the reply of Elizabeth filled by the Holy Spirit Luke 1,43: ” And whence ….the mother of my Lord should come to me?” So this proves from the Bible that Elizabeth inspired by the Holy Spirit saw the mother of the baby to be born as her master’s mother. Well we all know the power of the prayer of the righteous. Tell these fundamentalists that just as we ask the prayer of righteous we ask the prayer of saints. Well they would reply to you that these people are dead and waiting judgement. You could use say that Jesus told the good thief on the cross that he would be with them in paradise and contradict that argument. Also tell them that in Jesus they are alive.Aso you can use the book of revelation to proof the continous prayer of saints to God.

    Well I have brought non-Christians and one pentacostal to Catholic faith. Of this one has baptised.You can prove the Catholic faith. History(including the scandals brought by human fraility) is with our Catholic Church.

  • Anonymous

    What a contrast we see between the words of Pope Benedict XVI and the teaching of the Apostles, Fathers, Popes and Councils of the Church throughout history forbidding Catholic interaction with heretics and schismatics.

    Additionally, the ancient term “breaking of bread” was first brought back into use by the Protestants of the XVI century Reformation as a means of undermining Catholic belief in the Mass as Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, as well a means of denying His real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. It grieves me to hear Catholic Popes today use this method of speech so as not to offend heretics.

    It is not the “breaking of bread” that Catholics participate in, as if at some meal service. Rather, it is the unbloody sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary followed by the reception of His most precious body, blood, soul and divinity in Holy Communion for those in a state of grace.

  • Kyriakos

    Well the 2nd Vatican Council does say of dialogue with schismatics and heretics. Do you believe in that? Some one who fails to accept all the Councils of the Church(including Vatican 2) knowingly is a heretic and schismatic. I would like to know your opinion of Nostra Aetate ?

    You say”What a contrast we see between the words of Pope Benedict XVI and the teaching of the Apostles, Fathers, Popes and Councils of the Church throughout history forbidding Catholic interaction with heretics and schismatics.” May be for you rebellious and heretical SSPX is an exception for what you said. What do you think of Benedict’s lifting of the excommunication of SSPX Bishops.Are they ready to accept 2nd Vatican Council.

  • Anonymous

    In his general audience of December 1, 1966, Pope Paul VI spoke thus of the nature of Vatican II:

    There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the Council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church’s infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility.” (General Audience, December 1, 1966, published in the L’Osservatore Romano 1/21/1966)

    Let us remind ourselves here that Vatican II was the first Pastoral Council in the history of the Church, all previous Councils having been Dogmatic. Hence, there is only one way to view the pastoral teachings of this non-infallible Council and that is by comparing them in the light of sacred tradition with the dogmatic teachings of the infallible Councils that preceded it.

    It is true that not everything in Vatican II is to be rejected, for there are within its documents many references to previously defined dogmatic decrees in respect to both faith and morals. However, we must take heed of the words once spoken by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in respect to those non-dogmatic elements of Vatican II, who said:

    If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text [Gaudium et Spes] as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus. [...] Let us be content to say that the text serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 1987, pp. 381-2, Ignatius Press 1987)

    This “new era” referred to by the Cardinal is none other than the Masonic era of ‘The Rights of Man’ ushered by the French Revolution, a purely secularist, humanist era of religious indifference. “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality” before divine truth!

    Pope John Paul II himself summed up how far this revolutionary spirit had penetrated into the conciliar mind when he seemingly contradicted his Papal predecessors as follows:

    Freedom of conscience and of religion, including the aforementioned elements, is a primary and inalienable right of man.” (“The Freedom of Conscience and of Religion”, September 1, 1980).

    Perhaps this is what Cardinal Ratzinger was referring to when he wrote: “we must look to the real Council and unmask the anti-spirit of the Council, which was already manifest during the sessions and then increasingly so in the period that followed” (The Faith Report). What happened at Assisi in 1986 was typical of this “anti-spirit” which directly opposes Papal teaching, not least Pius XI’s Encyclical Quas Primas on the Kingship of Christ.

    So, as Archbishop Lefebvre explains: “A non-dogmatic, pastoral council is not a recipe for infallibility. When, at the end of the sessions, we asked Cardinal Felici, “Can you not give us what the theologians call the “theological note of the Council?”” he replied, “We have to distinguish according to the schemas and the chapters those which have already been the subject of dogmatic definitions in the past; as for the declarations which have a novel character, we have to make reservations.” (An Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Chapter 14, ‘Vatican II is the French Revolution in the Church.’ p. 107)

    Now, in answer to your question concerning Pope Benedict’s lifting of the excommunications of the SSPX bishops, I answer simply that the Pope acted justly.

    As to your question of whether said bishops will accept Vatican II, I respond with the words of Archbishop Lefebvre: “They want to make the Council part of tradition but my conception of tradition is a discriminatory factor which distinguishes what in the Council conforms with tradition and what goes against it.

    For further analysis of the problem I recommend the following links:

    http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/SiSiNoNo/1993_June/Heirs_of_Archbishop_Lefebvre.htm

    http://www.catholicapologetics.info/modernproblems/americanism/king.htm

    http://www.romancatholicism.org/vatican-ii.htm

  • Profidebookstore

    “What a contrast we see between the words of Pope Benedict XVI and the teaching of the Apostles, Fathers, Popes and Councils of the Church throughout history forbidding Catholic interaction with heretics and schismatics.”
    COMMENT: There is no single such teaching in the history of the Church.

    “the ancient term ‘breaking of bread’”
    COMMENT: It is not the “ancient” term but the Biblical term, which the Pope puts as a quotation, and it is inspired by the Holy Ghost, as it is the whole Bible.

    “Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary”
    COULD SOMEBODY EXPLAIN WHAT IT MEANS?

  • Profidebookstore

    “In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility.”

    COMMENT: That only means that it did not come up with any definition. But infallibility of the Church extends beyond strictly dogmatic definitions, while dogmatic teaching means not only dogmas but all that Church proposes about the truths related to faith even if not proposed infallibly, as it is evident in all manuals of dogmatic theology.

    From moral point of view a Catholic accepts defined dogmas with Divine and Catholic Faith, but all non-infallible teachings he accepts with religious assent. It is a sin to reject it. While the “traditionalists” recite the above quoted passage ad nauseam, they always omit what precedes it:

    “As is self-evident, the Council text must always be interpreted in accordance with the general rule which are known to all” (my note: all but “traditionalists”).

    And what follows:

    “All the other statements that it proposes are the teaching of the supreme magisterium. They must therefore be welcomed and accepted by each and everyone of Christ’s faithful (my note: not the “traditionalists”) in the way in which the Sacred Council intended. This intention is conveyed either by the subject matter, or by the manner of utterance, according to norms of theological interpretation” (note: too much to understand for some; they simply omit it).

  • Profidebookstore

    “Vatican II was the first Pastoral Council in the history of the Church, all previous Councils having been Dogmatic.”

    COMMENT: Typical of “traditionalists”: one parrot-like repeating the same nonsense, none even remotely thinking it necessary to check whether it is true. But it is easy to explain why: they would have to cease being “traditionalists”, or they would stay “traditionalists” while knowing at the same time that their position is untenable.
    (1)Although Vatican did not propose any dogma, nevertheless, off hand, 30% of the text is dogmatic.
    (2)Although Trent did propose several dogma the following sessions had nothing to do with dogma: 21, 8-12, 15-20, 21: Chapters 1-9, most of the session 21-25. End even those in which dogmas were proposed, the dogmas themselves took no more than 10% of the text; the rest was dogmatic in the same way as Vatican II was dogmatic.
    (3)I have never seen a book in which decrees of all councils are published in their entirety. But brief accounts are easily available, and unless dogmas have omitted in these accounts, the following councils were pastoral: Lateran 1 and 2, Lyons 1.

    “Hence, there is only one way to view the pastoral teachings of this non-infallible Council and that is by comparing them in the light of sacred tradition with the dogmatic teachings of the infallible Councils that preceded it.”

    This “theological” method of assessment is really unique. If it were my idea I would go to one recognized theological school and propose it for PhD. Or perhaps, to be sure to get at least something, I would send it to one of the many “traditional”, strictly theological, magazines for publications. The Church would be certainly enriched with this theological development in the light of tradition.

  • Profidebookstore

    About Abp. Lefebvre and Cardinal Felici.
    Both are individual bishops, in the reported conversation they certainly acted in their own private capacity. What they said was not infallible. Even if they acted in their official capacity they wouldn’t be infallible because it is an infallible teaching of Vatican II, LG 25/2, that “individual bishops do not enjoy prerogative of infallibility”, nor was it their intention to claim it. In other words, what they said could have been erroneous.

    Now what the Abp. Lefebvre said? He used an ambiguous language when claiming that the Vatican II was “non-dogmatic” and “pastoral”. The “dogmatic” can have the range of meanings from strictly defined dogmas to merely teaching doctrine regarding faith and morals by a teacher in school. Likewise the “pastoral” can mean decisions how things should be done, exhortations for a particular way of life, deposition of Photius (Constantinople IV), Church discipline (Lateran I, II, Lyons I), suppression of Knights Templar (Vienne), penalty imposed on theologian which is both pastoral, imposed to protect others, and dogmatic because it implies an assertion that his view is incompatible with doctrine, exhortation to devotion to the Blessed Sacrament which is both pastoral i.e. it is beneficial for souls, and dogmatic because it implies that the devotion is doctrinally correct, and one can go on and on.

    What I am sure is that His Grace was not ambiguous deliberately when he put the question to the Cardinal, because he knew that the Cardinal would understand his mind, and there was no need to be more precise. They were both theologians, and did not discuss the subject in front of theological dilettantes, of the kind that contribute to this Post, who have no clue of what the “theological note” stands for in technical theological language.

    The Cardinal too replied ambiguously. By referring to the “schemas and the chapters …which have already been the subject of dogmatic definitions” he could have had in mind the two Dogmatic Constitutions or some sections in them, and the sections of other documents in so far as they dealt with doctrine, because all of them had been, in one way or another, already “the subject to dogmatic definitions”, or he had in mind, but I would think unlikely, only the propositions (I am using the term in technical sense, as it used by the Church) which in their content cover the same subject which is dealt with in dogmatic definitions.

    “(A)s for the declarations which have a novel character, we have to make reservations”, he could have meant the documents which are called declarations, like declaration on non-Christian religions; or propositions (see above) introduced for the first time, of the kind Pius IX made when asserting that those “in invincible ignorance of the true religion” can be saved (thus making of invincible ignorance the eighth sacrament, my note), which was novelty to be taken with reservation.

    The Cardinal did not say that any of the propositions (see above) may be rejected, nor did the Archbishop imply that any may be rejected. The issue was merely what degree of assent was required. But the dilettantes use it to justify rejection of the whole or an overwhelming part of the teaching of the Council, including dogmatic teaching, and – strangely enough – still insists that they are Catholics. I am not authorized to say whether they are or not; I think they are Catholics but they are invincibly ignorant, in similar way as children are, or those who are members of other Christian communities: after all they are baptized and the baptism incorporates them in the Catholic Church.

  • Profidebookstore

    “Freedom of conscience and of religion, including the aforementioned elements, is a primary and inalienable right of man.”
    COMMENT: Of course. Otherwise, no one would be able to commit mortal sin, the Hell would be “empty”, Devil redundant, no genuine conversion possible, and the Redemption would be a waste of time.

    “What happened at Assisi in 1986 … directly opposes Papal teaching, not least Pius XI’s Encyclical Quas Primas on the Kingship of Christ.”
    COMMENT: It doesn’t. Few regrettable events apart on the first occasion, the Assisi was a great event of evangelization, which only those who have lost zeal for it can deplore. A refusal to see the truth and good, and welcome it, in non-Catholic religions is refusal of the Kingship of Christ the elements of which are already present in them.

    Archbishop Lefebvre’s assessment: “They want to make the Council part of tradition but my conception of tradition is a discriminatory factor which distinguishes what in the Council conforms with tradition and what goes against it”
    COMMENT: is certainly not an infallible proposition. As it stands (unless it is taken out of context of all he said) it is contrary to an Ecumenical Council which binds Catholic conscience, regardless of whether what the latter proposes is proposed infallibly. That is traditional moral doctrine of the Church.

    While the Church cannot be grateful enough to him for what he did for the protection of the Holy Mass, and for bringing to the attention of Church authorities the horror of secularist infiltration, we have to take congniscence that in his occasional statements he went over the top, as he himself admitted, and – my view – that in his basic orientation he did not fully grasp some elements of Catholic doctrine.

    The quoted example shows, also in my view, his misconception of the Catholic notion of Tradition and its relation to the Magisterium.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Illman/100001213734158 Rob Illman

    this evil and sick   prick liar   when will the  catholic people that belong to this religious lying bullshit cult  wake up and read the bible cover to cover and quit believing the lies  of this religious asshole

    HE is a  man  HE IS  RICH  he is a liar     he doesnt give a dam about you
    JESUS IS GOD   JESUS DIED   JESUS IS COMING BACK  JESUS IS THE ONLY   savior

    http://www.jesus-is-savior.com

    the new world order is real and this PRICK WANTS A NEW WORLD MONEY AND A NEW WORLD POLICE FORCE    he is a liar  he is a   antichrist  and   people  are  so stupid to follow this  ASSHOLE

    cursed is the man who trusts in man      BUT  BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO TRUSTS IN THE LORD

    jesus is god              wake up      infowars com   henrymakow com  

  • What Word

    I wonder what would happen if we actually put the actual words of the Vatican II documents into action.
    For example, that protestant ‘churches’ are not churches but communities. They cannot claim the title church because they have no valid priesthood or all seven sacraments. We can call the Eastern Orthodox churches because they have a valid priesthood and all seven sacraments according to Vatican 2.