Cardinal Kasper Evaluates Progress and Concerns of Ecumenism

Movement Has Slowed, Says President of Pontifical Council

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2003 ( The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, now under way, is one of the key annual events aimed at overcoming the divisions within Christianity.

In this interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, analyzes the state of relations of the Catholic Church with the rest of the Churches and Christian communities.

Q: What progress has been made recently in the ecumenical journey?

Cardinal Kasper: The Holy Father’s visit to Scandinavia, the repeated visits of our Finnish friends here in Rome, the great ecumenical events of the Jubilee of the year 2000, the visits of the Pope to some countries of Orthodox majority, and the visits made by Orthodox patriarchs to Rome, as, for example, that of the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Teoctist, last year, as well the 1986 and 2002 Assisi Days of Prayer for Peace in the World, have evidenced the progress realized to date.

This journey of rapprochement, as the Holy Father has confirmed many times, is irreversible. It was traced for us by Christ himself who, on the eve of his death, prayed so that all would be one. Unity is, therefore, the testament left by Our Lord.

Q: What are the concerns?

Cardinal Kasper: Despite such progress, one cannot but point out that the ecumenical rapprochement, in the course of the last years, has become slower and also more tired.

The initial enthusiasm has diminished that at times was accompanied by utopian expectations, and new difficulties have arisen. With the Orthodox Church, after the political change of the years 1989/90, the so-called problem of Uniatism re-emerged.

As regards the dialogue with the Western ecclesial communities, the greatest difficulties are concentrated above all on the ecclesiological question and, in particular, on the ecclesial ministry. The situation is also made more complex by the existence of different answers to some fundamental ethical problems. There is increasing disappointment over the fact that it is still not possible to participate together at the table of the Lord. And who is not saddened?

Q: What are your suggestions?

Cardinal Kasper: In such a situation, increased activism is not enough to make things progress. Of course, we should not reduce the commitment and we must continue to do our best, but the unity of the Church is not effected by our strength and will alone. Unity is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

We can only pray so that God will send his Spirit upon us and grant us a new Pentecost. In a situation that today has become more difficult, we must make reference first of all to the most profound spiritual roots of our commitment: We must return to the sources of our Christian and ecumenical commitment.

A saint such as St. Bridget, who lived profoundly as a contemplative mystic and, at the same time, as an active woman, committed politically, can be a great example and help in our efforts to achieve unity.

Following her example, we can also be certain that the Father will give us all that we ask him in the name of Jesus. And what gift can we ask him in the name of Jesus that is more precious than the unity of his disciples?

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