Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Musings on Pope Benedict XVI’s Papacy: Benedict XVI—On Christian Unity

By Father John Crossin

I’ll always remember Pope Benedict walking down the aisle of St. Joseph’s Church in New York, during his 2008 visit to the United States. Hundreds of assembled Christian leaders from across the country greeted him warmly, and he offered words of hope and reconciliation.

In Rome, the Holy Father greets delegations of distinguished ecumenical guests regularly. He has good personal relationships with many leaders including Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Pope Benedict speaks on many topics in his numerous ecumenical talks, but he returns again and again to the importance of:

· Our own deeper conversion to Christ as critical to our ecumenical efforts;

· The need to purify our memories of past injuries and injustices so as to be reconciled to one another;

· The importance of humility in our dialogues and conversations; and

· The centrality of divine guidance—it is not we who will achieve Christian Unity; this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

In his deeply spiritual approach to our search for Christian Unity, Pope Benedict is in continuity with Pope John XXIII and with the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism. He served as a theologian at Vatican II and continues its work to this day. He is very much in continuity with Pope Paul VI and Blessed Pope John Paul II’s teaching by word and symbolic action.

His prayerful demeanor reminds us that in seeking the truth together we are relying on divine guidance. He clearly seeks this guidance in his own life.


Father John Crossin, is director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

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