The Blog

Everything listed under: ecumenism

  • Pope calls out critics on pastoral mercy, ecumenism

    Another day, another interview with Pope Francis. This one, in the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, focused on ecumenism, and the pope took the opportunity to defend his bridge-building efforts with other Christian churches.

    He also delivered a rebuke to those who have recently critiqued his document, Amoris Laetizia, for its opening on the question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Critics, he said, don’t really understand the church’s role in the world.

    “The church exists only as an instrument for communicating to people the merciful design of God,” he said. That was clearly enunciated by the Second Vatican Council in its document on the nature of the church, he said.

    “This moves the axis of Christian understanding away from a certain legalism, which can be ideological, to the person of God who made himself merciful in the incarnation of the Son,” he said.

    “Some – consider certain replies to Amoris Laetitia – continue to not understand, (to see) either white or black, even though it is in the flow of life that one must discern,” the pope said. He added that this teaching of Vatican II will probably take a century to be “well absorbed” by the body of the church.

    “We’re at the halfway point,” he said.

    The pope’s reproach of those who want a “white or black” judgment of pastoral situations plainly referred to a small group of cardinals who this week published a letter to the pontiff, challenging him to clarify supposed “doubts” about Amoris Laetitia, the pope’s post-synodal document published in April. The cardinals have questioned whether some sections of the document could be read as contradicting traditional church teaching on marriage.

     In the interview, Francis said seeking Christian unity was a perennial task of any pope, and he described it as primarily a work of encounter and prayer, not negotiation. He said his recent meetings did not represent an “acceleration” of this process. It’s simply a matter of following the path of the Second Vatican Council, and the impetus comes from “the path, not me,” he said.

    At one point the interviewer noted that some conservative critics have accused the pope of “selling out doctrine” in order to promote ecumenical relations, and in effect “Protestantizing” the Catholic Church.

    “I’m not losing any sleep over that,” the pope replied. He added that the value of criticism depended on “the spirit behind it.” Authentic criticism can help the church, but sometimes it’s obvious that the criticisms “are not honest, and are made with a bad spirit in order to foment divisions, he said.”

    The pope said he was convinced that certain “rigorous” positions among critics are born from “a shortcoming, a desire to hide one’s own sad disappointment behind a type of armor.”

    On the issue of proselytism, there was this exchange:

    Pope Francis: "The church never grows through proselytism but by attraction, as Benedict XVI wrote. Therefore proselytism between Christians is in itself a grave sin."

    Interviewer: "Why?"

    Pope Francis: "Because it contradicts the very dynamic of how one becomes and remains a Christian. The church is not a soccer team in search of fans."  Read More...

  • Highlights of pope's talk on ecumenical, interreligious dialogue


                  Bartholomew I of Constantinople

    This morning Pope Francis addressed representatives of other Christian churches and other religions who came to Rome for his inaugural Mass. It was a pretty standard speech, with some interesting points of emphasis that reflect the new pope’s agenda.

    Here are a few highlights:

    -- He addressed the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, as “my brother Andrew.” The reference was to St. Andrew, the patron saint of the Orthodox patriarchate, just as St. Peter is the patron saint of the Catholic Church.

    -- He said the best service Christians can give to ecumenism is to witness their faith “freely, joyfully and courageously.” This is especially needed in a world marked by divisions and rivalries, he added.

    -- The pope, who as a cardinal in Argentina had excellent relations with Jewish leaders, underlined the “special spiritual bond” between Christians and Jews and pledged to continue dialogue.

    -- Greeting Muslims, he said the followers of Islam “worship the one, living and merciful God, and invoke him in prayer.”

    -- The pope outlined particularly fruitful terrain for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue: in protecting the environment, in working for social justice and, above all, in cultivating a thirst for the absolute in a world where the human person is often “reduced to what he or she produces and what he or she consumes.”

    -- The pope’s only mention of violence came when he spoke about the “efforts in recent history to eliminate God and the divine from the human horizon,” an apparent reference to atheistic communist regimes.

    -- He extended a final thought for all those men and women who do not belong to any religion, but who “feel nevertheless that they are seeking truth, beauty and goodness.” He said they are “our precious allies in the commitment to defend human dignity, build peaceful coexistence among peoples and safeguard creation.”


      Read More...

  • With new pope, hopes for ecumenical springtime


             Pope Francis with journalists

    Pope Francis’ first few days have already generated an abundance of hope on many fronts, and one of them is ecumenism.

    The fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is attending the pope’s inaugural Mass tomorrow is rightly seen as a milestone in Catholic-Orthodox relations. That hasn’t happened since Catholics and Orthodox split in 1054.

    Of course, Pope Francis does not yet have a “record” on relations with other Christian churches. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, however, he dropped some clues.

    According to Bishop Gregory Venables, the Anglican bishop of Argentina, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was apparently not enthusiastic about Pope Benedict’s move in 2011 to create a structure in the Catholic Church to welcome disaffected Anglicans.

    In remarks published by the Anglican Communion News Service, Bishop Venables said Cardinal Bergoglio “called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans."

    Bishop Venables described the new pope as “consistently humble and wise” as well as “outstandingly gifted,” and as someone who would treat him as an equal in joint services.

    In a broader sense, Pope Francis’ whole approach to the office of the papacy has generated hope for an ecumenical springtime. So far, the new pope seems intent on downplaying papal power and highlighting his role as a unity figure among his brother bishops.

    It was striking that in his initial appearances, he repeatedly referred to himself as the “bishop of Rome” rather than emphasizing his role as an authority figure in the universal church.

    Many experts say one of the biggest ecumenical obstacles, especially in dialogue with the Orthodox, is the way papal primacy is carried out. The key issue is how the pope’s universal role of authority and service is balanced with the pope’s collegial relationship with all the bishops.

    Pope Francis has given every indication that he takes collegiality seriously. Addressing the members of the College of Cardinals the day after his election, he told them that “we are as brothers.”

    “We are that community, that friendship, that closeness, that will do good for every one of us. That mutual knowledge and openness to one another helped us to be open to the action of Holy Spirit,” he said. While all roles in the church are not equal, he added, they need to work in harmony.

    Italian Father Bartolomeo Sorge, a leading Jesuit intellectual, told reporters that the expectation of greater collegiality was a reasonable one.

    "It's significant that Pope Francis, in the brief words he pronounced immediately after his election, spoke of the 'church of Rome' that presides in charity over the other churches. This awareness could be a prelude to achieving the kind of collegiality that the (Second Vatican) Council foresaw and that has yet to be realized," he said.

    In his first major audience after his inaugural Mass, Pope Francis is meeting Wednesday with the representatives of other Christian churches who came to Rome for the event. That’s the moment we should get a clearer sense of his ecumenical intentions.


      Read More...