VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged the Catholic Church’s understanding, respect and collaboration with the Bruderhof Communities, an Anabaptist group, when receiving some of their representatives in audience.
The meeting took place last Saturday, but the Holy See published only today the address the Pope delivered to them in English.
“You share a tradition in which Christ’s call to discipleship finds expression in common life in the Spirit and in daily witness to the evangelical law of love,” the Holy Father said. “Christians always need to hear anew the radical summons to holiness which is the heart of our Savior’s message.”
“Your witness to that message is especially reflected in your respect for God’s creation and your deep commitment to defending the sacredness of all human life,” John Paul II said.
The Pontiff told the Anabaptists of his prayers so that “the growing contacts with the Catholic Church which you are fostering will bear fruit in ever greater mutual understanding, respect and cooperation.”
Leading the representatives of the Bruderhof Communities at the meeting was Johann Christof Arnold.
In a subsequent statement, Arnold explained that there “is no question that many Anabaptists suffered persecution and death at the hands of medieval Church officials. But the resulting bad blood between these two groups of Christians, which has now persisted for centuries, is still contrary to what the Gospels teach about forgiving, loving and praying for one’s enemies.”
“It is for this reason that I have engaged in dialogue with the Catholic Church over the past decade,” he added, a dialogue that culminated in this audience with the Holy Father.
“I have read a lot by and about Pope John Paul II, and have always been impressed by his courageous witness to world peace, the sanctity of life at its beginning and its end, and his unflagging zeal to strengthen and protect the family as an inviolable part of God’s order,” Arnold stressed.
“I had prepared a statement on behalf of our 12 Bruderhof Communities to thank the Pope for his consistent and courageous call to follow the teachings of Jesus, especially those regarding the sanctity of marriage and the family,” Arnold said.
“Like him, we believe that the health of a culture depends on the health of its families,” he added. “And like him, we have waged a determined and uncompromising war against the current culture of death, both obvious and insidious.
“But in the end, I departed from my prepared message and spoke to him as a brother — in German, a language he knows well — and simply expressed our gratitude for his faith, his courage and his witness, and assured him of our continued prayers and support.”
Founded in Europe in 1920, the Bruderhof Communities have branches in New York, Pennsylvania, England, Germany and Australia, with more than 2,500 members.