VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Benedict XVI highlighted the progress in dialogue between Catholics and Methodists in recent decades.
The Pope made that point when receiving a delegation of the World Methodist Council in audience today. The delegation was headed by the president of the council, Bishop Sunday Mbang of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, and included the secretary-general, the Reverend George Freeman of the United States.
The day after the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized ecumenical dialogue, the Pope said: “Now we have to reflect upon the friendly relations between Catholics and Methodists, and upon the patient and persevering dialogue in which we have engaged. Indeed, there is much for which we can today give thanks.”
“Since 1967, our dialogue has treated major theological themes such as Revelation and faith, tradition and teaching authority in the Church,” the Holy Father said.
“These efforts have been candid in addressing areas of difference. They have also demonstrated a considerable degree of convergence and are worthy of reflection and study,” Benedict XVI added.
“Our dialogue,” continued the Pope, “and the many ways in which Catholics and Methodists have become better acquainted have allowed us to recognize together some of those ‘Christian treasures of great value.’
“On occasion, this recognition has enabled us to speak with a common voice in addressing social and ethical questions in an increasingly secularized world.”
The Holy Father added: “I have been encouraged by the initiative which would bring the member churches of the World Methodist Council into association with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999.”
The World Methodist Council embraces 76 Methodist communions. At its next general assembly, in July, it is expected to approve this declaration.
“Should the World Methodist Council express its intent to associate itself with the Joint Declaration,” said Benedict XVI during today’s audience, “it would assist in contributing to the healing and reconciliation we ardently desire, and would be a significant step towards the stated goal of full visible unity in faith.”
Bishop Mbang said that, thanks to the dialogue, many prejudices have vanished. He made special reference to Pope John Paul II’s contribution.
As Methodists, said the bishop, “we are aware that we must accept and learn many things about the Catholic Church and we believe and hope also that we can offer our contribution to bring about the one Church of Jesus Christ.”