VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI gave new impetus to dialogue with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches when receiving its representatives for the first time in audience.
“I pray that our meeting today will itself bear fruit in a renewed commitment to work for the unity of all Christians,” said the Pope during the audience on Saturday. “The way before us calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange.”
The delegation of the Reformed Churches was made up of five representatives, including U.S. representative Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the president of the alliance.
The other members of the delegation included Setri Nyomi, secretary-general of the alliance; Sabine Hofmeister, moderator of the Reformed Synod of Denmark; Maria Bonafede, moderator of the Waldensian Church; and Odair Pedroso Mateus, the alliance’s executive secretary for theology and ecumenical engagement.
In his address in English to his guests, the Holy Father recalled the four decades of Catholic-Reformed dialogue, which arose in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
Such dialogue, he said, “has made an important contribution to the demanding work of theological reflection and historical investigation indispensable for surmounting the tragic divisions which arose among Christians in the 16th century.”
The Pope noted that the dialogues between Catholic and Reformed theologians had shown significant convergence on the understanding of the nature of the Church of Jesus Christ.
“It is an encouraging sign that the current phase of dialogue continues to explore the richness and complementarity of these approaches,” he added.
Benedict XVI stated that “there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion.”
In particular, to foster understanding between Catholics and Reformed Christians, the Holy Father suggested the promotion of endeavors of “purification of memory,” which Reformed Churches are already carrying out, and which John Paul II promoted, especially during the Jubilee Year 2000.
“Gestures such as these are the building blocks of a deeper relationship which must be nurtured in truth and love,” Benedict XVI said.
Clifton Kirkpatrick said in his address to the Pope that “the Reformed family is grateful to God for the three phases of the Reformed-Catholic dialogue that have been completed” and added that the alliance is eager to move closer to the Catholic Church “in common faith and witness.”
“There is still much to be done,” Kirkpatrick continued, “to move beyond our past condemnations of one another, as parts of the one body of Jesus Christ, serve God together without worrying about inhibitions in our nations and to come together at the table of our Lord.”
“We are eager to be partners with you in this important ministry of Christian unity,” he said.
In addition to its meeting with the Pope, the delegation also met with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Council for Justice and Peace.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches is a fellowship of more than 75 million Reformed Christians in 218 churches in 107 countries.