VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is underlining interreligious dialogue as a key way to promote reconciliation and peace in Africa.
Cardinal Walter Kasper affirmed this in an address to the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which began Sunday in Rome.
He was one of 16 prelates who presented interventions to the 225 synod fathers who attended the fourth congregation on Tuesday.
According to an English summary released by the Vatican, the cardinal underlined the “rapid growth of the Church in Africa,” but also expressed sadness at the “increasingly deeper fragmentation among Christians.”
“These divisions are historically entrenched through the legacy of the divided Christianity that Africa received,” he said.
Also, the prelate added, today there are “many new divisions in Africa itself when we think on the more recent Charismatic and Pentecostal communities, the so called Independent churches and the sects.”
He reported that on a certain level, “dialogue is currently undertaken through the Global Christian Forum, which recently met in Nairobi.”
“On other levels,” Cardinal Kasper said, “a serious dialogue with these groups is not easy if not in many cases totally impossible because of their aggressive behavior and — to say the least — their low theological standard.”
Rather than criticizing these groups, he said, “we have to ask what is wrong or what is deficient with our own pastoral work.”
The cardinal asked: “Why [do] so many Christians leave our Church? What they are missing with us and searching [for] elsewhere?”
In answer to these questions, he proposed the need to emphasize “ecumenical catechetical formation and building up of small Christian communities within our parishes.”
The prelate underlined the need not only for dialogue with Protestant traditions, but also with Orthodox Churches, given the “recent rapid spread” of the latter across Africa.
He also made special mention of the “ecumenical relations with the Evangelical, Charismatic and the Pentecostal movements” because of “the relevance of their indigenous expressions and their affinity with the traditional African cultural worldview.”
This engagement, he added, requires “inspired fidelity to the Church’s principles on ecumenism” as well as “a specific understanding of African cultural expressions.”
Cardinal Kasper affirmed: “Our search for unity in truth and love must never lose sight of the understanding that Church unity is the work and gift of God’s Holy Spirit, and goes well beyond our own efforts.
“Therefore spiritual ecumenism, especially prayer is the very heart of ecumenical commitment.”
This synod, he stated, “offers a challenge to the Church in Africa to sharpen its ecumenical vision and to offer the pursuit of unity to the people of Africa as an authentic treasure of the Gospel.”
The cardinal concluded, “The renewal of the inner life of our hearts and minds is the crux of all dialogue and reconciliation, making ecumenism a mutual commitment of understanding, respect and love, so that the world may believe.”
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