Monday, July 21, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI on the ultimate goal of ecumenism

Pope Benedict XVI gives a proper orientation on ecumenism, in his recent address to Christian leaders in Sydney on July 18:

"We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live."


"The road of ecumenism ultimately points towards a common celebration of the Eucharist".

Christians have an immediate task of improving the temporal world, while not losing sight of the ultimate goal of uniting the Church in Christ. Social and spiritual work therefore cannot be at odds. A Christian community can not do one without the other and it is very difficult to determine where one begins and the other ends, much more to determine where one is overemphasized over the other. This is so because they are enmeshed together as a clear representation of the Catholic doctrine of Faith and Works. Working for the improvement of the temporal sphere in accordance to God's plan is something essentially unified and integral with evangelization as Catholic social doctrine affirms. To the Reformist, works are important in their sanctification but do not have any salvific value and is therefore, not essential to salvation. This is actually central to the division between Catholics and mainline Protestants, who hold on to the 5-Solas doctrine which caused the 16th century schism with the Catholic Church and continues to this day. This however does not mean that Catholics cannot work with Christians of different denominations in the immediate task of "improving the world". While recognizing the fundamental right of religious freedom, "Christians cooperate, together with members of other religions, for the promotion of human dignity and for fellowship among all nations."

"The more closely we strive for a deeper understanding of the divine mysteries, the more eloquently our works of charity will speak of God’s bountiful goodness and love towards all."

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