MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II
To my Venerable Brother CARDINAL WALTER KASPER
1. I cordially greet you and all those participating in the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, dedicated to a weighty theme: Communion: gift and commitment - Analysis of the results of the dialogues and the future of ecumenical research.
I fervently hope that this important meeting will give an impetus to the ecumenical journey towards the restoration of full unity among all Christians, a pastoral priority I have constantly kept before me from the beginning of my Pontificate. Indeed, in carrying out my Petrine ministry, I want to comply fully with the Second Vatican Council's invitation that the Catholic Church be committed "irrevocably
to following the path of the ecumenical venture, thus heeding the Spirit of the Lord who teaches people to interpret carefully the "signs of the times'" (Encyclical Letter, Ut unum
sint, n. 3).
Moreover, what can be said of the many encouraging signs given by the theological research of the major Churches and Ecclesial Communities? The commissions of international dialogue, with patience and perseverance and at times overcoming discouragement and distrust, have attained results of convergence which, although they are intermediate, constitute a solid basis on which to continue in our common research. At the national level there are more initiatives of dialogue, study and reflection, which show how profitable these exchanges are: they help people to become better acquainted and to compare their respective positions in charity, encouraging the rapid attainment of results in this age of on line communications. The reception of the results and the consequent emphasis on the ecumenical dimension in catechesis, in formation and in diakonia, likewise represent a providential pair that will not fail to give substance to the ecumenical efforts made so far. From the readiness of this ecclesial task comes the possibility of entering more deeply into that dynamism of mutual enrichment among ecclesial communities, which we have received as a gift and which is a force that impels us towards full koinonia.
Two tasks must always guide this effort: the dialogue of truth and the meeting in fraternity.
These tasks are welded into an organic whole, enabling us to continue on our long journey: we have more clearly identified its destination, we have sought the means to continue it effectively, we have established norms and principles that can sustain the ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church. In particular, we call for the presence of other Christians. On every solemn and significant occasion, when we run into difficulties or obstacles, our rediscovered brotherhood comes to our rescue, encouraging us to have that fundamental attitude of conversion that opens hearts to forgiveness. Nor would it otherwise be possible, because several times already we have exchanged the promise to forgive one another, placing the memories and wrongs of the past in God's merciful hands.
Yes! Unfortunately, the full communion of all Christians has not yet been achieved, nor have we been granted to know what development the Holy Spirit will desire to give to ecumenical research in the years to come. However, it cannot be denied that we have come a long way, and that the climate prevailing between Catholics and the Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities is quite different today from what it was in the past. We are beginning the third millennium knowing that we are in a new situation that we could hardly have imagined even 50 years ago. Today we feel we cannot do without this endeavour that brings us together. May the Lord help us treasure what has been achieved so far, safeguard it with care and hasten its developments. We must make this intermediate period, as it were, a favourable opportunity to intensify the pace of ecumenical progress.
May each person live ecumenical dialogue as a pilgrimage towards the fullness of catholicity that Christ wants for his Church, harmonizing the many different voices in a single symphony of truth and love.
I am certain that with the exchange of gifts to which the ecumenical movement has accustomed us and with rigorous and serene theological research, constantly imploring the light of the Spirit, we will even be able to face the most difficult questions that have seemed insurmountable in many ecumenical dialogues such as, for example, that of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, which I mentioned in particular in my Encylcical Letter Ut unum sint (cf. nn. 88-96).
However, this said, I do not intend merely to propose the attitude of Martha, who - according to Christ's words - was anxious and fussed about many things, neglecting to listen to his teachings (cf. Lk 10, 41). Indeed, prayer and constant listening to the Lord are indispensable, for it is He who, with the power of His Spirit, converts hearts and makes possible practical progress on the path of ecumenism.
As I hope that the plenary session of this Pontifical Council will offer important starting points for reflection on your future work, I commend all your projects to the Lord. I ask him, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, to help all Christians always to act in accordance with the commandment of unity which he himself left to us in the Upper Room: "Ut unum sint".
With these wishes, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to each one of those taking part in your important meeting.
From the Vatican, 10 November, 2001.
JOHN PAUL II