MESSAGE FROM CARDINAL WALTER KASPER
Wesley’s Chapel, City Road, London
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
On behalf of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, I am very happy to send to you warm and heartfelt greetings and congratulations on the occasion of your celebration of the 225th anniversary of Wesley’s Chapel in London, and your ongoing celebration of the 300th anniversary of John Wesley’s birth. I extend special greetings to the members of the International Methodist-Catholic Commission, who have just completed a week-long meeting in the ancient city of York, including an excursion to the nearby village of Epworth where John and Charles Wesley were born.
The International Commission is continuing the work begun when the dialogue was initiated in 1967, following upon the relations which developed between the Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council through the active participation of Methodist observers at the Second Vatican Council. Thanks principally to the work of the International Commission, we have advanced significantly in our relations over the past four decades. While we both acknowledge that there are still important ecclesiological issues separating us, the gap between us is gradually being bridged. We have come to know and understand each other better; we have become friends, and recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our goal, which will be achieved only by the grace of the Holy Spirit, is nothing less than full visible unity in faith, mission and sacramental life.
Building upon the relationship which has grown between Methodists and Catholics, we are happy to join you in celebration of the 300th anniversary of John Wesley’s birth. I recently had the opportunity to preach at the Methodist Church of Ponte Sant’Angelo in Rome when this community celebrated John Wesley’s anniversary. My hope was to contribute to a Catholic reassessment of Wesley by reflecting on his wholehearted commitment to spreading the good news of salvation, his fostering of Scriptural holiness, and his structuring of communities of Christians for witness and mission. By virtue of the new context created by our dialogue and our increasingly warm relations, this process of reassessment is rich with possibilities. Indeed the insights of John and Charles Wesley into the call to holiness have a continuing value for all who seek to follow Christ. The faithful of the Catholic Church have already discovered some of these insights through the hymns of Charles Wesley.
I would also take this opportunity to thank and congratulate you, and most especially the World Methodist Council, for the ecumenical commitment you have shown in numerous ways in recent years. In addition to our theological dialogue, we have been happy to welcome Methodist participation at various events celebrating the Jubilee Year commemorating the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ three years ago in Rome, and more recently, at the Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. We are also greatly encouraged by the current initiative of the World Methodist Council which seeks to associate their member churches with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, a document signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999.
As we continue on our walk together towards full unity in Christ, our one and saving Lord, we join you in giving thanks to God for the life and witness of John Wesley and his brother Charles. Asking God’s richest blessings upon your celebrations,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Walter Cardinal Kasper
Information Service 114 (2003/IV), p.185.