Pontiff Lauds Finland's Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue

Affirms Unity as Sign of Incorporation in Body of Christ

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is praising Lutheran-Catholic attempts to reach a consensus about the mystery of the Church, and its nature as the sign and instrument of Christ’s salvation.

The Pope highlighted this Monday in an audience with members of the ecumenical delegation of Finland on the occasion of their annual visit to Rome and the feast of their patron, St. Henry.

He affirmed, «These pilgrimages are an occasion for shared prayer, reflection and dialogue in the service of our quest for full communion.»

The Holy Father noted that the visit took place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and he highlighted the theme: «That they may become one in your hand.»

He continued, «In the context of ecumenism, it speaks to us of God who constantly draws us into deeper unity in Christ, by renewing us and liberating us from our divisions.»

The Pontiff acknowledged that the «Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland and Sweden continues to consider the Joint Declaration on Justification.»

«Under the theme Justification in the Life of the Church,» he continued, «the dialogue is taking ever fuller account of the nature of the Church as the sign and instrument of the salvation brought about in Jesus Christ, and not simply a mere assembly of believers or an institution with various functions.»

Benedict XVI recalled the example of St. Paul, «whose life and teaching were tirelessly committed to the unity of the Church,» and who spoke of the Church as the mystical Body of Christ.

The Church, he said, is «continuously guided by the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of the Father and the Son.»

He continued: «It is only based on this incarnational reality that the sacramental character of the Church as communion in Christ can be understood.

«A consensus with regard to the profoundly Christological and pneumatological implications of the mystery of the Church would prove a most promising basis for the Commission’s work.»

The Holy Father added, «From Paul we also learn that the unity we seek is nothing less than the manifestation of our full incorporation into the Body of Christ.»

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