Pope Benedict XVI today addressed members of an ecumenical delegation from Finland. The address, given in English, can be read on the Vatican website or on Zenit. Today is the feast day of St. Henrik of Uppsala, who is the patron saint of Finland.
The Pope spoke of Catholics and Protestants praying and working together, being a "convincing testimony to the guiding and saving truths of the Gospel that all men and women seek or need to hear." He mentioned several documents in the address, drawing points concerning ecumenism from each of them.
This post quotes more extensively from the documents mentioned in that address in hopes of drawing out more clearly those aspects of them that were the basis for the Holy Father's address.
He mentioned the theme from the booklet for this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is "He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak (Mk 7:37)." Drawing from that booklet, he mentioned how the "charge of common witness in word" draws us closer to Christ and thus to each other. The booklet for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity says this on the theme and its implications for common witness:
"As the body of Christ, the church is called to be one, the community which has heard and seen the marvels which God has done, and has been sent forth to proclaim them to the ends of the earth. As Christ’s body, we are called to be united in carrying out his mission. . . .
"Drawing together two strands of the church’s life and mission, this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is intent on emphasizing that there is an essential connection between efforts to pray for and seek unity among Christians and initiatives to respond to human need and suffering. The same Spirit which makes us brothers and sisters in Christ also empowers us to reach out to every human being in need. The same Spirit which is at work in all efforts to make visible the unity of Christians also gives strength to every movement towards renewing the face of the earth. Every easing of human suffering makes our oneness more visible; every step towards unity strengthens the whole body of Christ."
Concerning the "courage" required by this "convincing testimony to the guiding and saving truths of the Gospel", the Pope then turned to the themes of justification and the foregiveness of sins that are "central to the theme of our relationship with God." He mentioned his reference to that point given at the ecumenical vespers service during his journey to Bavaria, and said "In this sense our first task will perhaps be to rediscover in a new way the living God present in our lives, in our time, and in our society.” In his homily for that Ecumenical Vespers service, he had said:
"The agreement on justification remains an important task, which – in my view – is not yet fully accomplished: in theology justification is an essential theme, but in the life of the faithful today – it seems to me – it is only dimly present. Because of the dramatic events of our time, the theme of mutual forgiveness is felt with increased urgency, yet there is little perception of our fundamental need of God’s forgiveness, of our justification by him. Our modern consciousness – and in some way all of us are “modern” - is generally no longer aware of the fact that we stand as debtors before God and that sin is a reality which can be overcome only by God’s initiative. Behind this weakening of the theme of justification and of the forgiveness of sins is ultimately a weakening of our relation with God. In this sense, our first task will perhaps be to rediscover in a new way the living God present in our lives, in our time and in our society."
The third source from which he drew was the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification entered into between Catholics and Lutherans, saying that it "covered a considerable distance theologically," and adding: "I hope and pray that these conversations will effectively contribute to the quest for full and visible unity of the Church, while at the same time offering an ever clearer response to the fundamental questions affecting life and society." In sections 16 through 18 of that Joint Declaration, there are statements of the centrality of justification to Christianity, as seen by both Catholics and Lutherans:
"16.All people are called by God to salvation in Christ. Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith. Faith is itself God's gift through the Holy Spirit who works through word and sacrament in the community of believers and who, at the same time, leads believers into that renewal of life which God will bring to completion in eternal life.
17.We also share the conviction that the message of justification directs us in a special way towards the heart of the New Testament witness to God's saving action in Christ: it tells us that as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way.
18.Therefore the doctrine of justification, which takes up this message and explicates it, is more than just one part of Christian doctrine. It stands in an essential relation to all truths of faith, which are to be seen as internally related to each other. It is an indispensable criterion which constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ. When Lutherans emphasize the unique significance of this criterion, they do not deny the interrelation and significance of all truths of faith. When Catholics see themselves as bound by several criteria, they do not deny the special function of the message of justification. Lutherans and Catholics share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who alone is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim 2:5f) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts. [cf. Sources for section 3]."
Lastly, the Pope said that "the Holy Spirit is the real protagonist of the ecumenical endeavour," citing by comparison the Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio (November 21, 1964). Concerning the Holy Spirit and unity, Unitatis Redintegratio stated:
"This is the sacred mystery of the unity of the Church, in Christ and through Christ, the Holy Spirit energizing its various functions. It is a mystery that finds its highest exemplar and source in the unity of the Persons of the Trinity: the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, one God."