Let us go forward with hope
On Monday, 25 April, in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Holy
Father Benedict XVI spoke to the Delegates of other Churches and
Ecclesial Communities, and of other religious traditions, all of whom
had come to Rome on the occasion of his election as Pope. "Above all",
he said, the path to full unity "requires persistent prayer and with one
heart, in order to obtain from the Good Shepherd the gift of unity for
his flock". Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity, opened the Audience with a greeting to
the Pope. The Pontiff also thanked the representatives of the different
religions for their "tribute of sympathy and affection... to my
unforgettable predecessor", which "went far beyond a mere act of
ecclesial courtesy". At the conclusion of the Audience, the Pope greeted
and embraced everyone present. Among the meaningful gifts presented to
him was a splendid silver icon. The following is a translation of the
Holy Father's Address, which was given in Italian, French and English.
Dear Delegates of the Orthodox Churches, of the Oriental Orthodox
Churches and of the Ecclesial Communities of the West, I greet you with
joy a few days after my election. I particularly appreciated your
presence in St Peter's Square yesterday, after we had lived together the
sorrowful moments of the farewell to our late Pope John Paul II. The
tribute of sympathy and affection that you expressed to my unforgettable
Predecessor went far beyond a mere act of ecclesial courtesy. Much
progress was made during the years of his Pontificate, and your
participation in the mourning of the Catholic Church on his departure
has shown how true and great the common eagerness for unity is.
In greeting you, I would like to thank the Lord who has blessed us
with his mercy and instilled in us sincere willingness to make his
prayer our own: ut unum sint. He has thus made us increasingly
aware of the importance of moving forward towards full communion. With
brotherly friendship we can exchange the gifts we have received from the
Spirit, and we feel urged to encourage one another so that we may
proclaim Christ and his message to the world, which often appears
troubled and restless, uninformed and indifferent.
Praying for the gift of unity
Our meeting today is particularly important. First of all, it enables
the new Bishop of Rome, Pastor of the Catholic Church, to repeat to you
all with simplicity: Duc in altum! Let us go forward with hope.
In the footsteps of my Predecessors, especially Paul VI and John Paul
II, I feel strongly the need to reassert the irreversible commitment
taken by the Second Vatican Council and pursued in recent years, also
thanks to the activity of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity. The path to the full communion desired by Jesus for his disciples
entails, with true docility to what the Spirit says to the Churches,
courage, gentleness, firmness and hope, in order to reach our goal.
Above all, it requires persistent prayer and with one heart, in order to
obtain from the Good Shepherd the gift of unity for his flock.
How can we not recognize in a spirit of gratitude to God that our
meeting also has the significance of a gift that has already been
granted? In fact, Christ, the Prince of Peace, has acted in our midst:
he has poured out friendship by the handful, he has mitigated points of
disagreement, he has taught us to be more open to dialogue and in
harmony with the commitments proper to those who bear his Name. Over and
above what divides us and casts shadows on our full and visible
communion, your presence, dear Brothers in Christ, is a sign of sharing
and support for the Bishop of Rome, who can count on you to continue the
journey in hope and to grow towards the One who is Christ, the Head.
On such a special occasion, when we are gathered together at the very
beginning of my ecclesial service, welcomed with respect and trusting
obedience to the Lord, I ask you all to join with me in setting an
example of that spiritual ecumenism which, through prayer, can bring
about our communion without obstacles.
I entrust these intentions and reflections to you together with my
most cordial greetings, so that you may pass them on to your Churches
and Ecclesial Communities.
Efforts for dialogue build peace
I turn now to you, dear friends from different religious traditions,
and I thank you sincerely for your presence at the solemn inauguration
of my Pontificate. I offer warm and affectionate greetings to you and to
all those who belong to the religions that you represent. I am
particularly grateful for the presence in our midst of members of the
Muslim community, and I express my appreciation for the growth of
dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and
I assure you that the Church wants to continue building bridges of
friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the
true good of every person and of society as a whole.
The world in which we live is often marked by conflicts, violence and
war, but it earnestly longs for peace, peace which is above all a gift
from God, peace for which we must pray without ceasing. Yet peace is
also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who
profess to belong to religious traditions. Our efforts to come together
and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on
solid foundations. Pope John Paul II, my Venerable Predecessor, wrote at
the start of the new Millennium that "the name of the one God must
become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace"
(Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 55). It is therefore imperative to
engage in authentic and sincere dialogue, built on respect for the
dignity of every human person, created, as we Christians firmly believe,
in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:2627).
At the beginning of my Pontificate, I address to you and to all
believers of the religious traditions that you represent, as well as to
all who seek the Truth with a sincere heart, a pressing invitation
together to become artisans of peace, in a reciprocal commitment to
understanding, respect and love.
My cordial greeting to you all.