10/30/2014, 00.00
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Pope: in a Europe where there is "thirst for God," Catholics and Old Catholics should bear credible witness to the Gospel

During an audience with bishops from the Union of Utrecht, Francis recognises "the increasing distance between us on matters of ministry and ethical discernment." Nevertheless, it is "possible to build new bridges of a more profound mutual understanding and practical co-operation". Indeed, "In prayer for and with one another, our differences are taken up and overcome in fidelity to the Lord and his Gospel."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In Europe " which is so confused about its own identity and vocation, there are many areas in which Catholics and Old Catholics can collaborate in meeting the profound spiritual crisis affecting individuals and societies," said Pope Francis in his address to a delegation from the Old Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Union of Utrecht.

The Union, which has more than 500,000 members, plus approximately three million members in the Philippine Independent Church, was established by the bishops who rejected (and reject) the dogma of papal infallibility proclaimed by the First Vatican Council in 1870.

It is an Apostolic Church (for Rome, its bishops are deemed valid but illegitimate because they were not appointed by the pope) that recognises the honorific primacy of the Pope (as successor to Saint Peter), and is in union of prayer and love with him.

In his address, Pope Francis said that the division between the two Churches has led, "on the part of both sides, [to] grave sins and human faults." Indeed, "The theological and ecclesiological questions that arose during our separation are now more difficult to overcome due to the increasing distance between us on matters of ministry and ethical discernment."

At the same time, "It has been possible to build new bridges of a more profound mutual understanding and practical co-operation. Convergences and consensus have been found, and differences have been better identified and set in new contexts." Hence, "we rejoice whenever we take steps towards a stronger communion in faith and life".

"The challenge for Catholics and Old Catholics, then, is to persevere in substantive theological dialogue and to walk together, to pray together and to work together in a deeper spirit of conversion towards all that Christ intends for his Church."

"In a spirit of mutual forgiveness and humble repentance, we need now to strengthen our desire for reconciliation and peace. The path towards unity begins with a change of heart, an interior conversion. It is a spiritual journey from encounter to friendship, from friendship to brotherhood, from brotherhood to communion. Along the way, change is inevitable. We must always be willing to listen to and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth".

In Europe, "There is a profound desire to recover a sense of purpose in life. There is an urgent need for a convincing witness to the truth and values of the Gospel. In this, we can support and encourage one another, especially at the level of parishes and local communities. In fact, the soul of ecumenism lies in a 'change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians'. In prayer for and with one another, our differences are taken up and overcome in fidelity to the Lord and his Gospel.

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