Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Benedict XVI's Reflections for 2011 Christian Unity Theme

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011

One in the apostles’ teaching,
fellowship, breaking of bread
 and prayer
 (cf. Acts 2:42)

Reflections on the Theme
from the speeches of Pope Benedict XVI

The English version of the material for the 2011 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prepared by the joint group drawn from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches has based its theme on the following biblical text:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NRSV)
Reflecting on this theme, the holy father, Pope Benedict XVI in his Angelus address of 23 January 2011 said:
Today too, to be a sign and instrument in the world of intimate union with God and of unity among men, we Christians must base our life on these four cardinal principles: life founded on the faith of the Apostles transmitted in the living Tradition of the Church, fraternal communion, the Eucharist and prayer. Only in this way, being closely united to Christ, can the Church effectively accomplish her mission, despite the limits and failures of her members, despite the divisions, which the apostle Paul already had to confront in the community of Corinth...
During the almost-six years of his Pontificate so far, Benedict XVI has often addressed the subject of ecumenism with rich and penetrating insights. Here are some short reflections extracted from the holy father's speeches on various occasions, where he touched on the "four cardinal principles" mentioned above.

Apostolic Faith
Our commitment to Christian unity is born of nothing less than our faith in Christ, in this Christ, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. It is the reality of Christ’s person, his saving work and above all the historical fact of his resurrection, which is the content of the apostolic kerygma and those credal formulas which, beginning in the New Testament itself, have guaranteed the integrity of its transmission. The Church’s unity, in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism. It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity, the model of the Church’s koinonia here below. (Benedict XVI, Address at the Conclusion of the Ecumenical Vespers, Westminster Abbey, Friday, 17 September 2010)
Fraternal Communion
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). (Benedict XVI, Address at the Ecumenical Meeting, Crypt of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, 18 July 2008)
Eucharist - the Breaking of Bread
Is not this what the Apostle Paul said in the reading we have just heard? In writing to the Corinthians he said: "Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (I Cor 10: 17).
The consequence is clear: we cannot communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another. If we want to present ourselves to him, we must also take a step towards meeting one another.
To do this we must learn the great lesson of forgiveness: we must not let the gnawings of resentment work in our soul, but must open our hearts to the magnanimity of listening to others, open our hearts to understanding them, eventually to accepting their apologies, to generously offering our own.
The Eucharist, let us repeat, is the sacrament of unity. Unfortunately, however, Christians are divided, precisely in the sacrament of unity. Sustained by the Eucharist, we must feel all the more roused to striving with all our strength for that full unity which Christ ardently desired in the Upper Room. (Benedict XVI, Homily at the Closing of the XXIVth Italian National Eucharistic Congress, Esplanade of Marisabella, Sunday, 29 May 2005)
The conciliar Decree on Ecumenism refers to prayer for unity when, at the very end, its states that the Council realizes that "this holy objective - the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ - transcends human powers and gifts. It therefore places its hope entirely in the prayer of Christ for the Church" (n. 24). It is the consciousness of our human limitations that impels us to trusting abandonment in the hands of the Lord. Clearly, the profound meaning of this Week of Prayer is precisely that of relying entirely on the prayer of Christ, who continues to pray in his Church that "they may all be one... so that the world may believe..." (Jn 17: 21). Today, we feel the weight of these words strongly. The world is suffering from the absence of God, from inaccessibility to God; it longs to know God's Face. But how could and can people today recognize this Face of God in the Face of Jesus Christ if we Christians are separated, if one contradicts the other, if one is against the other? Only in unity can we truly show to this world - which needs it - God's Face, Christ's Face. It is also obvious that it is not with our own policies, with dialogue and all that we do - which is nevertheless so necessary - that we shall be able to obtain this unity. What we can obtain is our willingness and ability to welcome this unity when the Lord gives it to us. This is the meaning of prayer: to open our hearts, to create within us this willingness that paves the way to Christ. In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the homily the Bishop or the one who presided at the celebration, the principal celebrant, would say: Conversi ad Dominum. Then he and everyone would rise and turn to the East. They all wanted to look towards Christ. Only if we are converted, only in this conversion to Christ, in this common gaze at Christ, will we be able to find the gift of unity. (Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, 23 January 2008)
Pope Benedict XVI's reflections are honest, deep and moving in the power of truth. They give a new impetus to the century old ecumenical movement. 

Feel free to leave your reflections in the comments

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vatican Communique on Theological Colloquium in India - Jan 2011

The complete text of the Communique released by the Holy See Press Office, noon, Monday, 24 January 2011, on the Theological Colloquium Between Representatives of the Holy See, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) and Theologians of India held from January 16-22, 2011 at  St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India.

Communique on the Colloquium Between 
Representatives of the Holy See
the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) 
and Theologians of India (January 16-22, 2011)

Cooperatores Veritatis - Seeking the Truth Together

From January 16 – 22, 2011, a Colloquium was held at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences in Bangalore, India, in which a delegation from the Holy See met with twenty-eight members of the Bishops’ Conference of India and twenty-six theologians from various parts of the country. The delegation of the Holy See was led by His Eminence William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, assisted by His Excellency Archbishop Luis Ladaria, S.I., the Secretary of the Congregation, Mons. Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice, and three officials. The members of the Indian Episcopate who participated in the Colloquium represented the three Ritual sui iuris Churches in India, led by His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI). In addition, His Eminence Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi and President of the Latin Rite Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos and President of the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, His Excellency Bishop George Punnakottil of the Syro-Malabar Church, Bishop of Kothamangalam and Vice-President of the CBCI, and His Excellency Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, Bishop of Palai and Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI were among those participating. The theologians who took part were also drawn from the three sui iuris Churches. The Colloquium was the fruit of the longstanding cooperation between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and was prepared and organized by His Excellency Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona, who had earlier served as the Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI, with the expert assistance of Father Dominic Veliath, S.D.B., Secretary of the Doctrinal Commission of the CBCI and also member of the International Theological Commission. The Apostolic Nuncio to India, His Grace Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio also took part in the proceedings.

The annual colloquia between Bishops and theologians in India began in 1996. In a subsequent meeting held in Rome that same year between a number of the Bishops of India and representatives of various Dicasteries of the Holy See, the hope was expressed that, at some point in the future, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might take part in such a gathering. The Colloquium in Bangalore was the realization of that hope, and was specifically intended as a forum for addressing some of the theological issues facing the Catholic Church in India in a collaborative atmosphere of dialogue and discussion. As is well known, in the great nation of India there are more than a billion human beings, of whom approximately 2.3% are Christians. The Catholic Church in India had its origins in the witness of Saint Thomas the Apostle and received new impetus with the missionary activity of Saint Francis Xavier. Today, Catholics in India, though few in number, make a widely appreciated contribution to the welfare of the country, above all through numerous educational institutions, healthcare facilities, social welfare initiatives and charitable works. It was the specific and unique character of the Catholic Church in India which provided the context for the presentations and discussions during the Colloquium in Bangalore.

In the first part of the Colloquium, theologians addressed questions such as the specific role of the theologian in the Church, theological methodology in the East and in the West, inculturation, Jesus Christ as the one Saviour of all people, the relationship between the Church of Christ and the other religions, the Christian concept of authentic human liberation, the role of the faith community (the "sensus fidelium"), and the distinctiveness of Christian prayer and spirituality. Each theological presentation was followed by lively and sustained dialogue in which all the participants - theologians, Bishops, and representatives of the Holy See – freely offered their contributions to a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. The discussions sought to take account of the Catholic presence in the distinctively Indian context, while at the same time emphasizing the inestimable gift of the universality of the Catholic faith, which is always to be communicated in its integrity and authenticity. The singular importance of the role of the theologian in the Church was stressed, as well as the need, especially when one seeks to elaborate a contextualized theology, to build on a solid theological foundation, always faithful to the teaching authority of the Church.

The second part of the Colloquium was organized for Bishops and the representatives of the Holy See. These days were devoted to various questions relating to the specific role and responsibility of Bishops in the Church, such as the Bishop as teacher of the faith, the functioning of the Doctrinal Commission of the Bishops’ Conference, the formation of future priests and members of religious congregations, and the correct adjudication of the more serious canonical delicts.

The week-long Colloquium was an experience of intense work and fruitful dialogue in which many questions were clarified and valuable initiatives proposed. It is hoped that the fruits of the Colloquium, already felt by the participants in the shared experience of liturgical prayer according to the three ritual expressions of the Catholic Church in India, will continue to benefit not only the Church, but also the wider society in India for years to come.
[00119-02.01] [Original text: English][B0049-XX.01]