The Vision of "Novo Millennio Ineunte"

Pope Posits New Ecumenism, Expert Says

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ROME, JAN. 29, 2001 (
John Paul II´s newest apostolic letter presupposes a qualitative leap in understanding the unity of the Church and the road Christians must follow in order to come to that unity in Christ, an expert on ecumenism says.

Camaldolese Father Innocenzo Gargano, an expert on ecumenical dialogue, voiced that view about «Novo Millennio Ineunte» during a meeting here Friday at the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He spoke at the headquarters of the Teresian Association in Italy.

Referring to the apostolic letter published Jan. 6, Father Gargano said the great novelty for ecumenism is John Paul II´s intuition that, «in Christ, the Church is not divided.»

Father Gargano referred to No. 48 of the letter, in which the John Paul II affirms, «The reality of division among the Church´s children appears at the level of history, as the result of human weakness.»

The second great affirmation in No. 48 which can open new ways for ecumenism, Father Gargano contended, is that Christ´s prayer during the Last Supper — «may they be one» — is «a binding imperative, the strength that sustains us, and a salutary rebuke for our slowness and closed-heartedness.»

The confidence of being able to reach, even in history, the full and visible communion of all Christians is based on «Jesus´ prayer and not on our own strength,» the Pope wrote.

Father Gargano added that there «is talk of growth toward the fullness of unity, which has already been given to Christ as evidence that his prayer was heard by the Father.»

With this phrase, he said, the Pope affirms the primacy of prayer. The Holy Father also affirms that «true ecumenism is the one that confesses that unity, which is already present in Christ,» Father Gargano said.

He also noted the Pope accepts the situation of the diaspora in which the Catholic Church lives today in many parts of the world, and does not mention again the ideal of the «Christian society,» as he did at the beginning of his pontificate.

The Holy Father himself has acknowledged that this notion has been surpassed, Father Gargano said. Instead, the notion must be substituted by the vision of a Church on the way, missionary in deed, not just in word, the priest said — hence John Paul II´s appeal to Christians to commit themselves in witnessing to love and meeting one another in holiness of life.

Father Gargano believes that the Jubilee Year helped to increase awareness of the Church´s minority situation on one hand, and of her call to follow the way toward unity on the other.»

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