11/23/2007, 00.00
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Ecumenism “is not an option but a sacred duty,” says Pope

Centred on the relations with other Christians, Benedict XVI and the cardinals come together on the eve of the consistory in a “meeting for prayer and reflection.” Cardinal Kasper presents a report in which he calls the Ravenna meeting in which the Orthodox recognised the Church’s universal level and the primacy of the bishop of Rome an “important step.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – For the Catholic Church “ecumenism is not an option but a sacred duty. It is the mandate of Our Lord!” said Benedict XVI. The Holy Father today reasserted a principle he enunciated at the beginning of his pontificate and reiterated several times. He did it in the Vatican during a prayer and reflection meeting with cardinals on the eve of tomorrow’s consistory when he will appoint 23 new cardinals.

A Vatican press release said that the Pope himself briefly presented the topic he chose for the day, namely “ecumenical dialogue in light of the prayer and the Lord’s mandate: Ut unum sint.”

Card Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, presented his report “on the main guidelines with regard to ecumenical dialogue and relations.” He focused “three main areas: 1. relations with the ancient Churches of the East and the Orthodox Churches; 2. relations with the Ecclesial Communities born of the 16th century Reform; and 3. relations with the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements that emerged last century.”

His presentation was followed by intervention by 17 cardinals.

According to the cardinal, the meeting took place in a “familiar and very cordial” atmosphere.

Speaking with reporters afterwards, Cardinal Kasper said that the document prepared in October in Ravenna by the joint Orthodox-Catholic commission was an important topic of discussion.

The “important step” it takes is that “for the first time Orthodox Churches said yes to the notion that the Church has a universal level which includes conciliarity, synodality and authority. This means there is a primacy. According to the customs of the ancient Church, the first bishop is the bishop of Rome; there is no doubt about it.”

The Ravenna document does not address the issue of “the privileges of the bishop of Rome;” that matter will be the basis for “future discussions.”

But “it is a step on the path of dialogue;” Cardinal Kasper said, “a good step on a path that will be very long.”

As for the rift between Moscow and Constantinople and the former’s withdrawal from the Ravenna meeting, the cardinal said “that it was a political issue between Constantinople and Moscow, not a theological one.”

The cardinals also discussed the need to achieve “pastoral understanding of the problem of Pentecostals, who now number 400 million people” and cannot be ignored, not in order to criticise them but rather to formulate the right pastoral.

Lastly, he said that the Church’s social doctrine and its implementation, the latter understood as the ways to work with other Christian Churches against poverty and for peace, are among the “most promising areas for ecumenism.”

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