Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address to members of the Joint Committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) this morning in the Vatican:
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I give you my cordial greeting and thank you for your visit. In particular, I thank Cardinal Peter Erdo and Reverend Christopher Hill for their courteous words.
The Committee that you now make up has the purpose to support the ecumenical journey in Europe, where many of the divisions that still exist between Christians had their beginning. For a long time, Christians of this continent have fought one another. Today, thank God, the situation is very different. The ecumenical movement has enabled the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities in Europe to take great steps on the way of reconciliation and peace. The recent European Ecumenical Assemblies and the Charta Oecumenica, written at Strasbourg in 2001, are factors of fruitful collaboration between the Conference of European Churches and the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences. These initiatives are the reason for great hope for surmounting the divisions, though in the awareness of the long way ahead towards the full and visible communion among all believers in Christ. In reality, however, the way, with all its difficulties, is already an integral part of the process of reconciliation and of communion that the Lord asks of us and makes us fulfill, so that it is lived in charity and in truth.
The Conciliar Decree Unitatis redintegratio on ecumenism states that the division between Christians “harms the most holy cause of the preaching of the Gospel to every creature” (n. 1). This seems evident, for instance, when the Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Europe present different visions on important anthropological and ethical questions. I hope, therefore, that occasions of common reflection will not be lacking and will be fruitful in the light of Sacred Scripture and of the shared Tradition. Looking together at the Lord Jesus Christ, who “revealing the mystery of the Father and of his love reveals man fully to man and makes him aware of his lofty vocation” (Ecumenical Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22), we can find common answers to the questions that contemporary society poses to us Christians. The closer we are to Christ, the more we will be united among ourselves.
Today, the Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Europe find themselves having to address new and decisive challenges, to which they can give effective answers only by speaking with one voice. I am thinking, for instance, of the challenge posed by legislation that, in the name of a principle of badly interpreted tolerance, ends by impeding citizens from expressing freely and practicing in a peaceful and legitimate way their own religious convictions. Moreover, in face of the attitude with which Europe seems to address the dramatic and often tragic migration of thousands of persons fleeing from war, persecutions and misery, the Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Europe have the duty to collaborate to promote solidarity and hospitality. Christians of Europe are called to intercede with prayer and to work actively to bring dialogue and peace in the ongoing conflicts.
In renewing my gratitude for your ecclesial service, I invoke upon it the constant blessing of the Lord. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]