No Turning Back on Ecumenism, Says Pope

Meets with a Finnish Delegation

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2003 ( John Paul II says the Catholic Church is “irrevocably” committed to the ecumenical way and the full unity of Christians.

When the Pope received an ecumenical delegation from Finland today, he spoke about the latest progress in Catholic-Lutheran relations.

“The Second Vatican Council committed the Catholic Church irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture, thus heeding the Spirit of the Lord, who teaches people to interpret carefully the signs of the times,” he said.

“This is an invitation that I have embraced throughout my pontificate. At this time, we recognize a new ecumenical moment in which we can acknowledge a real, if still incomplete, communion,” he added.

“The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a concrete sign of this new situation as a brotherhood rediscovered,” he said.

The document, signed in Augsburg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1999, overcame some questions related to man’s cooperation in salvation, which because of mutual misunderstandings were at the origin of the Reformation.

“It is my fervent prayer that by building on this brotherhood we can further promote a shared spirituality that will assist us in our pilgrimage toward full communion,” the Pope concluded.

The ecumenical delegation visited the Holy Father on the occasion of the feast of St. Henrik, patron of Finland, who in the 12th century contributed to the spread of Christianity in the Nordic country. Lutherans now constitute 85.7% of its 5.1 million inhabitants.

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