LONDON, JAN. 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was honored by the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury with a dinner and the award of a Lambeth Cross.
Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams hosted the dinner in honor of Cardinal Walter Kasper on Thursday, with the aid of the Nikean Club, an ecumenical association of the Church of England. During the evening the cardinal was presented with a Lambeth Cross, which is conferred on religious leaders who have rendered exceptional service to the cause of Christian unity, and in particular with the Anglican Communion.
In an address that evening, Cardinal Kasper expressed “my profound gratitude and my high esteem” for the archbishop and his collaborators, “who always were so cooperative with the officials of the pontifical council.”
The prelate noted in particular that during Benedict XVI’s visit to the United Kingdom last September, the Pope “was well received by Her Majesty the Queen, by [the archbishop of Canterbury], by the government and especially by the people, both Anglicans and Catholics.”
“We know that the unity of the Church is not an end in itself,” he said, “but helps to fulfill the mission of the Church to spread the Gospel and its values in a world which needs it so much in order to come to more justice, freedom and peace.”
In a particular way, the cardinal added, “our old European continent with its rich cultural inheritance but also with its confusing spiritual disorientation needs new spiritual guidance and new evangelization.”
“We can do it only together and we should try to do it as much we can together,” he said.
Cardinal Kasper affirmed, “It’s our common responsibility to fulfill the last will of our Lord: ‘That all may be one, so that the world may believe.'”
He assured his listeners that “the Holy Father, my successor in the Pontifical Council and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole are willing and decided to continue the way of sincere dialogue we started after the Second Vatican Council now more than almost fifty years ago.”
The prelate acknowledged some of the problems facing this dialogue, first of all defining “what does it mean to be the one Church of Christ in the many churches?”
He added, “What does it mean to realize this catholicity in its non-confessional but all embracing original meaning?”
“We know that this touches the problem of primacy,” the cardinal observed, “which for both is not an easy one, because it — besides all the theological questions that arise — is so deeply rooted in consciousness of this country and its history and in our Catholic convictions too.”
Cardinal Kasper noted a second challenge: “How to approach with our message the present modern or postmodern mentality in our secularized and pluralistic Western society?”
“Here difficult ethical and pastoral problems arise and our faithfulness to the Gospel message is challenged,” he affirmed, acknowledging the effort to define “faithfulness beyond fundamentalism and liberalism.”
These are “not easy questions,” the prelate stated, “but for the good of our people we are not allowed to give in.”
He added, “It is our duty to do our best in order find common answers, as we are decided to do in the now beginning third phase of our Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission dialogues.”
The cardinal expressed hope due to “the growing and augmenting ecumenical spiritual cooperation between groups and communities from different churches in everyday prayers and in meetings where they read together the Bible, exchange their spiritual experiences and pray together.”
“Ecumenism is not dead,” he stated, “it is lively and it is engaging in a new and hopeful phase of its history.”