11/17/2006, 00.00
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Meeting Bartholomew to give greater impetus to ecumenical dialogue, says Pope

In a speech to the assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Benedict XVI reviews the status of relations with other followers of Christ. The relationship with Orthodox Churches has improved; the one with Protestants is improving. But differences on various ethical issues are limiting the Churches' influence on public opinion.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI's meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during his upcoming visit to Turkey will be "an additional indication of [the Pope's] consideration for Orthodox Churches. It will accelerate, we hope, the reestablishment of full communion" with them.

The Pope expressed this view in a speech he delivered to the assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He explained that the "theological dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches has gathered new impetus," compared to the times of the Second Vatican Council. He did not however shy away from acknowledging "that realistically there is still much distance to travel".

In his address the Pontiff also reviewed the state of relations between the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. He pledged his firm commitment to "do everything in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism".

In addition to his meeting with Bartholomew and relations with the Orthodox, the Pope mentioned the difficulties that developed after the collapse of the Berlin Wall with the hitherto oppressed Churches. Although he did not mention it directly, he was clearly referring to the Moscow Patriarchate.

"Fortunately, after a period of many difficulties, the theological dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches has gained a new impetus."

This, in the Pope's words, opens the door to cooperation "which has become especially urgent given the growing process of secularisation, especially in the Western world."

The Holy Father also touched upon relations with the complex Protestant world, mentioning "the various bilateral dialogues, open and friendly, that have seen progress in mutual understanding, in overcoming prejudices, in finding common ground on some issues and clearly identifying those areas where there are differences".

He especially highlighted the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" with the World Lutheran Federation" that was also agreed to by the World Methodist Council.

Among the differences that persist Benedict XVI stressed those in the field of ethics. These difficulties have, as "consequences to Christian denominations taking different positions on some current issues, reduced their power to shape public opinion. From this point of view, there is a need for a deeper dialogue on Christian anthropology in addition to one over the interpretation of the Gospels and their actual application".

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