VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The “new evangelization” of Europe requires that the followers of Jesus overcome their divisions, says Benedict XVI.
“In a Europe on the way to political union, can we admit that it is precisely the Church of Christ that is a factor of disunion and discord? Is this not one of the greatest scandals of our time?” asked the Pope.
The Holy Father was heard today by the 150 delegates from 50 countries, representing 40 Churches and 34 bishops’ conferences and more than 50 federations and movements taking part in the Preparatory Commission of the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly.
It is an initiative of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and of the Conference of European Churches. The former is a Catholic group; the latter embraces other Christian confessions.
The meeting in Rome, which runs through Friday, is the first stage of an ecumenical endeavor that will culminate in Sibiu, Romania, in September 2007. The meeting took place in the context of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The theme chosen for the meeting is “The Cross of Christ Illuminates All: Hope of Renewal and Unity in Europe.”
In his address in Italian, Benedict XVI explained to his guests gathered in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall that the topic indicates “the authentic priority for Europe: to commit itself so that the light of Christ may shine and illuminate with renewed vigor the steps of the European continent at the beginning of the new millennium.”
“I hope,” the Pope continued, “that every stage of this pilgrimage will be illuminated by the light of Christ and that the next European Ecumenical Assembly will contribute to make the Christians of our countries more aware of their duty to give witness to faith in the present cultural context, frequently characterized by relativism and indifference.”
The Bishop of Rome contended: “If the process of unification undertaken is to be fruitful, Europe needs to rediscover its Christian roots, making room for ethical values that are part of its rich and consolidated spiritual patrimony.
“However, our presence as Christians will be incisive and illuminating only if we have the courage to advance with determination on the path of reconciliation and unity.”
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, “the need is felt to address, united, the present challenges, beginning with that of modernity and secularization,” the Holy Father said.
“Experience amply shows that sincere and fraternal dialogue generates trust, eliminates fears and prejudices, overcomes difficulties, and opens to serene and constructive confrontation,” he added.
Therefore, the Pontiff renewed “his determined will, manifested at the beginning of his pontificate, to assume the priority commitment to work tirelessly for the reconstruction of the full and visible unity of all of Christ’s followers.”