By Miriam Diez i Bosch
ROME, JAN. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Benedictine spirituality is an asset to the quest for Christian unity, since St. Benedict lived before any great divisions in the Church, says the abbot of the community at St. Paul Outside the Walls.
Benedictine Father Edmund Power affirmed this in an interview with H2O News ahead of Benedict XVI’s visit to the basilica today. The Pope went to St. Paul Outside the Walls to celebrate vespers for the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Father Power affirmed that the modern world poses many “challenges, threats and difficulties for Christians.” He said a commitment to “defining better what it means to be a Christian in the world, especially in the West, where Christianity is not well understood” is beginning to be seen.
The abbot confessed that when he first heard the term “spiritual ecumenism” he thought it was a phrase used “because of a lack of concrete progress in unity” — as if it was recognized that “it’s not possible to have real unity, so let’s have a spiritual unity.”
Later, he said he understood that “there is a deep significance to spiritual ecumenism,” which he takes to mean, “What we can do is to seek Christ together, to seek the will of God together through prayer, sacrifice and service.”
“This is primary, but more important is that no union is possible if all who believe in Christ are not profoundly rooted in his life,” Father Power continued. “This is the essential point of unity, the spiritual element. It means to highlight this and advance together to find concrete, pragmatic, daily ways of living together.”
The abbot said the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, which during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity hosts vigils with the participation of various Christian confessions, is “an ecumenical basilica.”
This ecumenical character proceeds, in part, from the spirituality of the monks, he said: “The Benedictine spirituality is a spirituality of the united Church because St. Benedict [480-543] lived before the divisions in the Church.”
Therefore, Father Power continued, “The spirituality of our monastic life in the West is that of St. Benedict, a spirituality for all Christians. That’s why our style of life goes along very well with this commitment to unity.”
The Benedictine said that the community at St. Paul Outside the Walls is not precisely an ecumenical community in that, “we don’t have monks that are not Catholics.” But, he said, “We have here the tomb of St. Paul to welcome whoever comes and looks for God, especially Christians, but others as well.”