Cardinal Kasper Views Pluses and Minuses of Ecumenical Dialogue

Addresses Plenary Assembly of Christian-Unity Council

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 4, 2003 ( Divisions within the Christian churches and communities are a fundamental problem for ecumenical dialogue, says Cardinal Walter Kasper.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity expressed that view Monday at the opening of the council’s plenary assembly.

“Tensions between the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, or those existing in the Anglican Communion, in communities of the Reformation tradition, as well as in the Catholic Church, harm the dialogue,” the cardinal said.

“The absence of an internal agreement creates an obstacle and at times impedes consensus to achieve external agreement,” he added. Internal disunity “leads to a paralysis of ecumenism and even to its impotence.”

Assessing the ecumenical situation, Cardinal Kasper told those present that “on one hand, old confrontations are being surmounted, or at least we are getting closer, and, on the other, new differences emerge.”

The latter arise especially in matters of ethics, “such as abortion, divorce, euthanasia and homosexuality,” Vatican Radio quoted him saying. “But also ethnic, social and political problems frequently cause divisions.”

Speaking before the opening of the plenary assembly, which is being attended by cardinals, patriarchs, bishops and theologians, the cardinal said there is “great joy” in ecumenical dialogue in spite of the difficulties.

There is an awareness “that the Holy Spirit also acts outside the Catholic Church. One meets many serious Christians who pray, who have the desire for unity,” and who “are spiritual men,” the cardinal said in an interview on Vatican Radio. “This gives hope.”

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