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Unity is furthered by continual renewal

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 2 August 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In our previous catechesis, we stressed how the Second Vatican Council recommended prayer as the essential and principal task of Christians who truly intend to dedicate themselves to the full achievement of the unity Christ desired. The Council added that the ecumenical movement "is the concern of the whole Church, faithful and shepherds alike," according to each one's ability, whether it be exercised in daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies (cf. UR 5). This means that responsibility in this area can and must be examined at various levels. It involves all Christians, but understandably obliges some in a quite particular way, such as theologians and historians. Ten years ago I remarked: "We must take every care to meet the legitimate desires and expectations of our Christian brethren, coming to know their way of thinking and their sensibilities. The talents of each person must be developed for the utility and advantage of all" [1] .

2. We can list the main paths which the Council proposed for ecumenical activity. First of all, it recalled the need for continuous renewal. "Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as she sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, insofar as she is an institution of men here on earth" (UR 6). The reform concerns behavior as well as Church discipline. It can be added that this need comes from above. That is, it is ordained by God himself, who puts the Church in a permanent state of development. This involves adjusting to historical circumstances, but also and above all, advancing in the fulfillment of her vocation as an ever more satisfactory response to the demands of God's plan of salvation.

Another basic point is the Church's commitment to becoming aware of the deficiencies and defects which, due to human frailty, have afflicted her pilgrim members throughout history. This is especially true with regard to sins against unity, even by Catholics. We must not forget St. John's warning: "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 Jn 1:10). Referring precisely to this warning, the Council exhorts: "So we humbly beg pardon of God and of our separated brethren, just as we forgive them that trespass against us" (UR 7).

In this journey the purification of our historical memory has proved highly important, since "each one therefore ought to be more radically converted to the Gospel, and without ever losing sight of God's plan, change his or her way of looking at things" (UUS 15).

3. It should also be remembered that harmony with our brethren in the other Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as with others in general, is rooted in the determination to lead a life that more closely conforms with Christ. Thus holiness of life, guaranteed by union with God through the grace of the Spirit, makes possible the union of all Christ's followers and causes it to advance, since unity is a gift which comes from on high.

Together with conversion of heart and holiness of life, ecumenical activity also includes private and public prayer for Christian unity. These are encouraged in various circumstances and especially at ecumenical gatherings. They are all the more necessary the more one perceives the obstacles on the way to full, visible unity. Thus it is understood that real progress toward the unity desired by Christ can only come from divine grace, and that any occasion when Christ's disciples meet to ask God for the gift of unity deserves praise.

The Council states that not only is this permitted but it is also desirable (cf. UR 8). Concrete action in various circumstances--of place, time and individuals--must be agreed to in harmony with the local bishop, in the context of the norms established by the episcopal conferences and the Holy See (cf. UR 8; Ecumenical Directory 28-34).

4. A special effort should be made to become more familiar with the state of mind and doctrinal, spiritual and liturgical position of our separated brethren in the other Churches or ecclesial communities. To this end, study conferences with the participation of both sides are a help, "especially for discussion of theological problems--where each can treat with the other on an equal footing--provided that those who take part in them are truly competent" (UR 9). These study meetings must be motivated by the desire to share knowledge and the blessings of the Spirit through an effective exchange of gifts in the light of Christ's truth and with a spirit of goodwill (cf. UR 9). A methodology enlivened by passion for the truth in love requires from all participants the threefold commitment to explain their position clearly, to strive to understand others and to seek points of agreement.

The Council also recommended that, in view of this form of ecumenical activity, the teaching of theology and the other subjects, especially the historical disciplines, should also be carried out "from the ecumenical point of view" (UR 10). This will prevent a polemical attitude and will instead strive to show the convergences and divergences existing between the various parties in their way of receiving and presenting the truths of the faith. Obviously, firmness in the defined faith will not be shaken if sincere adherence to the Church is the basis of the ecumenical methodology followed in the work of formation.

5. Dialogue procedures should have the same basis. In this dialogue Catholic doctrine must be clearly explained in its integrity: "Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded" (UR 11).

The task of theologians must therefore be to explain the Catholic faith more profoundly and precisely. They must proceed "with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility" (UR 11).

Furthermore, when comparing doctrines with one another, as the Council recommends, they should remember "that in Catholic doctrine there exists a 'hierarchy' of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith" (UR 11). With regard to this important point, theologians should be well trained and be able to discern the relationship which the various positions and the articles of the Creed themselves have with the two fundamental truths of Christianity: the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Word, the Son of God "propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem." Catholic theologians cannot set out on ways which oppose the apostolic faith as it has been taught by the Fathers and confirmed by the councils. They must always start with humble and sincere acceptance of the exhortation repeated by the Council itself on the subject of ecumenical dialogue: "Let all Christians confess their faith in the triune God, one and three, in the incarnate Son of God, our Redeemer and Lord" (UR 12).

[1]   Address to the Roman Curia, June 28, 1985, AAS 77, pp. 1151-1152; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, July 15, 1985, p. 3"

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli francesi

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française. Je souhaite que, grâce aux différents monuments visités à Rome, ils puissent découvrir davantage le Christ, pour l’aimer et le servir, afin de trouver le bonheur auquel ils aspirent. J’accorde à tous de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini inglesi

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to greet the members of the Maltese National Pilgrimage of the Sick to Lourdes. Upon all the English–speaking visitors, especially the pilgrim groups from England, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the United States of America, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Christ our Saviour.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dem innigen Wunsch, dieses groe Anliegen der Christenheit möge ständig Euer christliches Tun und Wirken begleiten, grüe ich Euch alle, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Willkommensgru gilt den Schwestern der Christlichen Liebe, die am Generalkapitel teilnehmen sowie den Mitgliedern der ”Feldmusik Luthern aus dem Kanton Luzern“, für deren musikalische Darbietung ich sehr danke.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen und Freunden in der Heimat erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo con afecto a los visitantes de lengua española. En especial: a la Milicia de la Inmaculada de Paraguay, y al grupo de jóvenes quinceañeras de México, así como a los otros peregrinos mexicanos y de Puerto Rico. De España, doy mi bienvenida a la parroquia de Mota del Cuervo y a los peregrinos de Barcelona. A todos deseo que vuestra visita a Roma os sirva para reavivar vuestra fe como hijos de Dios y miembros de la Iglesia; os imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di espressione portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Amados peregrinos do Brasil e de Portugal, com menção especial para a paróquia de Nossa Senhora de Fátima, em Viana do Castelo: encontrastes terras e gentes diversas, mas reparando bem o céu e o sol são os mesmos. E, nesta Aula Paulo VI, cheia de rostos, cantos, e anseios diversos, o coração e a fé permitemnos intuir e rezar simultaneamente pelo sonho de todos. Na vida diária, construí a unidade, anunciando serena e fielmente a vossa fé e esforçando–vos por compreender os outros, para levantar pontes de concórdia. Assim, ajudareis a recompor a família de Deus Pai. Com uma prece para serdes uma bênção para a vossa terra e a vossa casa, também o Papa de coração vos abençoa.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski. W szczególności pozdrawiam pielgrzymkę z Czańca, parafię św. Bartłomieja, z której się wywodzi mój ród. Następnie z Radwanowic koło Krakowa niepełnosprawnych i opiekunów, Fundację Brata Alberta. Pielgrzymkę z archidiecezji częstochowskiej. Prócz tego grupy z Warszawy, Fundację “SOS dla Życia” oraz inne grupy z Katowic, Pabianic, Poznania, Słupcy, Choszczna, Kluczu, Zabrza, Siedlec, Dąbrowy Górniczej, Sosnowca i Opola. Szczegółowa lista grup pielgrzymkowych została odczytana przed audiencją.

Katecheza dzisiejsza jest na temat powołania ekumenicznego wszystkich chrześcijan, wszystkich osób i wszystkich wspólnot. Temat ten podejmuje Sobór Watykański II, w szczególności jego dekret o ekumenizmie oraz niedawno ogłoszona encyklika “Ut Unum Sint”. Wskazuje ona na istotne znaczenie ekumenizmu oraz na środki, po które trzeba sięgać na tej drodze do zjednoczenia chrześcijan. Środkiem takim jest przede wszystkim modlitwa – modlitwa wspólna; prócz tego przetwarzanie pamięci: nie pamiętać tego co dzieli, szukać tego co łączy; studium i dialog ekumeniczny. To pokrótce treść dzisiejszej katechezy.

Śpiewaliście na początku “Oto jest dzień”. Te pierwsze dni sierpnia są historyczne. Minęło wczoraj 51 lat od wybuchu Powstania Warszawskiego, które tak wiele kosztowało, ale tak wiele też zdecydowało w dziejach Polski i Europy. Nie zapominajmy nigdy naszej przeszłości, ażeby z tą świadomością iść w przyszłość z błogosławieństwem Bożym. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, alle Suore dell’Istituto Maestre Pie Filippini che, accompagnate dalla Superiora generale, sono venute a salutarmi prima di recarsi in Albania per dare vita ad una nuova fondazione. Possa il loro impegno educativo ed apostolico contribuire in modo efficace alla diffusione del Vangelo in quella Nazione a me tanto cara. Saluto anche il gruppo «Giovani “Bella Notizia”», riunito in questi giorni al “Paesetto della Madonna”, alle porte di Roma, per approfondire le tematiche delle Giornate Mondiali della Gioventù. Auguro loro di vivere, sotto lo sguardo di Maria, un’intensa esperienza ecclesiale che li aiuti a divenire apostoli sempre più generosi dei loro coetanei.

Ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli

Saluto, poi, i giovani, gli ammalati e gli sposi novelli qui presenti.

Esorto voi, cari giovani, a non trascurare durante questo tempo di vacanze e di riposo il raccoglimento e la preghiera, che più ci avvicinano a Dio.

Auguro a voi, cari malati, che le vostre sofferenze, unite spiritualmente a quelle del Crocifisso, vi siano di consolazione e di conforto e costituiscano un prezioso dono spirituale per il mondo intero.

Ed incoraggio voi, cari sposi novelli, ad edificare costantemente la vostra casa con il Signore, perché mai manchi l’alimento della sua grazia alla lampada della fede che deve brillare incessantemente nella vostra famiglia.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.

Il tormento, la preghiera e l’appello per la martoriata Bosnia ed Erzegovina 

Questi mesi estivi, tempo di riposo e di vacanze per molti, continuano ad essere funestati dalla tremenda violenza che, senza tregua, sembra annientare le popolazioni della Bosnia Erzegovina. Tutti ne siamo testimoni: chi potrà in futuro affermare di non esserne stato al corrente?

Seguo quotidianamente questa tragedia e porto nella mia preghiera le indicibili sofferenze di quelle popolazioni: lo smarrimento dei fanciulli, la stanchezza mortale degli anziani, la paura ed il coraggio delle donne, lo sterminio di uomini. Tutto è nel mio cuore.

Ancora una volta, chiedo alle istanze internazionali di voler continuare la loro opera ardua di persuasione presso le parti in lotta. La ricerca della giustizia, il rispetto del prossimo, la pietà per tutte quelle popolazioni senza distinzione ispirino le scelte dei responsabili delle nazioni. Il negoziato leale e perseverante, accompagnato da gesti concreti di buona volontà, sia il fine di ogni iniziativa. Turba pensare che l’intensificarsi delle azioni militari, da qualsiasi parte esse provengano, possa condurre a sviluppi difficilmente prevedibili e controllabili.

In quella parte d’Europa è posto in gioco il diritto alla vita di migliaia di nostri fratelli. Nessuno può decidere chi abbia diritto di vivere e chi debba scomparire. Lo può solo Dio, che “dà a tutti la vita ed il respiro ed ogni cosa” (At 17, 25). Egli ispiri a tutti sentimenti di pace e di umanità!

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