ROME, JUNE 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, preached at the Methodist church of Sant’Angelo Bridge in the heart of Rome, in the context of an ecumenical celebration.
The celebration Sunday marked the third centenary of the birth of Englishman John Wesley, founder of the movement centered on the preaching of the Gospel, which gave rise to the Methodists.
The cardinal began with the words “Brothers, Sisters, Friends,” and relayed the Pope’s blessing, saying “the unity of the Church is in his heart.”
Cardinal Kasper highlighted the dialogue that has been under way for 36 years between Catholics and Methodists, “our ecumenical partners,” the ANSA news agency quoted him saying.
He also pointed out aspects of Wesley’s testimony that are valid today, such as “attention to the poor” and “proclamation of the Gospel of hope.”
Present at the celebration, coordinated by Baptist pastor Pieter Bouma, was pastor Gianni Genre, moderator of the Waldensian Table, to which Italian Methodists adhere. The latter number some 5,000 out of a total of 80 million Methodists worldwide.
Split from Anglicanism, the Methodists — among whom there are various denominations — owe their start to Wesley and his friend George Whitefield, who met at Oxford in 1740.
Wesley and Whitefield sought a new method of religious perfection based on prayer, the reading of the Bible in common, and mutual vigilance. Their social and philanthropic tendency attracted many followers.