|Candid dialogue in truth and love
On Friday morning, 18 July , after celebrating Mass privately
in Cathedral House the Holy Father received separately, in the Reception
Hall, Mrs Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales, Mr Morris Iemma,
Premier of New South Wales, and Mrs Clover More, Mayor of Sydney, with
their respective families. The Pope then walked to the Crypt of St
Mary's Cathedral. Several leaders of other Churches and Christian
Denominations and members of the new South Wales Ecumenical Council were
present at this Ecumenical meeting. After being greeted by Cardinal
George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, and by the Anglican bishop Robert
Forsyth, the Holy Father gave the following address.
Dear Brothers and
Sisters in Christ,
I give heartfelt thanks to God for this opportunity to meet and pray
with all of you who have come here representing various Christian
communities in Australia. Grateful for Bishop Forsythís and Cardinal
Pellís words of welcome, I joyfully greet you in the name of the Lord
Jesus, the "cornerstone" of the "household of God" (Eph 2:19-20). I
would like to offer a particular greeting to Cardinal Edward Cassidy,
former President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity, who, due to ill health, could not be with us today. I recall with
gratitude his steadfast dedication to improving mutual understanding
among all Christians, and I would ask all of you to join me in praying
for his speedy recovery.
Australia is a country marked by much ethnic and religious diversity.
Immigrants arrive on the shores of this majestic land hoping to find
happiness and opportunities for employment. Yours, too, is a nation
which recognizes the importance of religious freedom. This is a
fundamental right which, when respected, allows citizens to act upon
values which are rooted in their deepest beliefs, contributing thus to
the well-being of society. In this way, Christians cooperate, together
with members of other religions, for the promotion of human dignity and
for fellowship among all nations.
Australians cherish cordial and frank discussion. This has served the
ecumenical movement well. An example would be the Covenant signed in
2004 by the members of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
This document recognizes a common commitment, sets out goals, and
acknowledges points of convergence without glossing over differences.
Such an approach demonstrates not only the possibility of formulating
concrete resolutions for fruitful cooperation in the present day, but
also the need to continue patient discussion on theological points of
difference. May your ongoing deliberations in the Council of Churches
and in other local forums be sustained by what you have already
This year we celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of
Saint Paul, a tireless worker for unity in the early Church. In the
scripture passage we have just heard, Paul reminds us of the tremendous
grace we have received in becoming members of Christís body through
baptism. This sacrament, the entryway to the Church and the "bond of
unity" for everyone reborn through it (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 22),
is accordingly the point of departure for the entire ecumenical
movement. Yet it is not the final destination. The road of ecumenism
ultimately points towards a common celebration of the Eucharist (cf. Ut
Unum Sint, 23-24; 45), which Christ entrusted to his Apostles as the
sacrament of the Churchís unity par excellence. Although there are still
obstacles to be overcome, we can be sure that a common Eucharist one day
would only strengthen our resolve to love and serve one another in
imitation of our Lord: for Jesusí commandment to "do this in memory of
me" (Lk 22:19) is intrinsically ordered to his admonition to "wash one
anotherís feet" (Jn 13:14). For this reason, a candid dialogue
concerning the place of the Eucharist Ė stimulated by a renewed and
attentive study of scripture, patristic writings, and documents from
across the two millennia of Christian history (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 69-70)
Ė will undoubtedly help to advance the ecumenical movement and unify our
witness to the world.
Dear friends in Christ, I think you would agree that the ecumenical
movement has reached a critical juncture. To move forward, we must
continually ask God to renew our minds with the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom
12:2), who speaks to us through the scriptures and guides us into all
truth (cf. 2 Pet 1:20-21; Jn 16:13). We must guard against any
temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the
seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in
which we live. In fact, the history of the Church demonstrates that
praxis is not only inseparable from, but actually flows out of didache
or teaching. The more closely we strive for a deeper understanding of
the divine mysteries, the more eloquently our works of charity will
speak of Godís bountiful goodness and love towards all. Saint Augustine
expressed the nexus between the gift of understanding and the virtue of
charity when he wrote that the mind returns to God by love (cf. De
Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae, XII, 21), and that wherever one sees
charity, one sees the Trinity (De Trinitate, 8, 8, 12).
For this reason, ecumenical dialogue advances not only through an
exchange of ideas but by a sharing in mutually enriching gifts (cf. Ut
Unum Sint, 28; 57). An "idea" aims at truth; a "gift" expresses love.
Both are essential to dialogue. Opening ourselves to accept spiritual
gifts from other Christians quickens our ability to perceive the light
of truth which comes from the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul teaches that it is
within the koinonia of the Church that we have access to and the means
of safeguarding the truth of the Gospel, for the Church is "built upon
the foundation of the apostles and prophets" with Jesus himself as the
cornerstone (Eph 2:20).
In this light, perhaps we might consider the complementary biblical
images of "body" and "temple" used to describe the Church. By employing
the image of a body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31), Paul draws attention to the
organic unity and diversity that allows the Church to breathe and grow.
Equally significant, however, is the image of a solid, well-structured
temple composed of living stones rising on its sure foundation. Jesus
himself brings together in perfect unity these images of "temple" and
"body" (cf. Jn 2:21-22; Lk 23:45; Rev 21:22).
Every element of the Churchís structure is important, yet all of them
would falter and crumble without the cornerstone who is Christ. As
"fellow citizens" of the "household of God", Christians must work
together to ensure that the edifice stands strong so that others will be
attracted to enter and discover the abundant treasures of grace within.
As we promote Christian values, we must not neglect to proclaim their
source by giving a common witness to Jesus Christ the Lord. It is he who
commissioned the apostles, he whom the prophets preached, and he whom we
offer to the world.
Dear friends, your presence fills me with the ardent hope that as we
pursue together the path to full unity, we will have the courage to give
common witness to Christ. Paul speaks of the importance of the prophets
in the early Church; we too have received a prophetic calling through
our baptism. I am confident that the Spirit will open our eyes to see
the gifts of others, our hearts to receive his power, and our minds to
perceive the light of Christís truth. I express heartfelt thanks to all
of you for the time, scholarship and talent which you have invested for
the sake of the "one body and one spirit" (Eph 4:4; cf. 1 Cor 12:13)
which the Lord willed for his people and for which he gave his very
life. All glory and power be to him for ever and ever. Amen!