Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The ecumenical dream of Benedict

Sandro Magister's commentary on the Pauline Year, with the full text of the Holy Father's speech from this past weekend.
Universal and ecumenical. For a church that is "catholic" and "one." This is the twofold horizon that the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople wanted to give to the Pauline Year, proclaimed together by the respective Churches of Rome and of the East. At the Mass celebrated on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the two successors of the apostles entered together into the basilica of St. Peter's; together they went up to the altar, preceded by a Latin deacon and by an Orthodox one, carrying the book of the Gospels; together they listened to the chanting of the Gospel in Latin and in Greek; together they delivered the homily, first the patriarch and then the pope, after a brief introduction by the latter; together they recited the Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol in the original Greek, according to the liturgical use of the Byzantine Churches; they exchanged the kiss of peace, and at the end they blessed the faithful together. Never before now – after almost a thousand years of schism between East and West – had a liturgy so visibly oriented to unity been celebrated by the bishop of Rome and by the patriarch of Constantinople.

The relationship with the Protestant communities remains deeper in the shadows for now. But the Pauline Year could be rich in significance for the dialogue with these communities as well. The leading thinkers of the Reformation – from Luther and Calvin to Karl Barth, Rudolph Bultmann, and Paul Tillich – elaborated their thought beginning above all with the Letter of Paul to the Romans.

And the contribution that the Pauline Year could make to dialogue with the Jews is no less relevant. Paul was an observant Jew and a rabbi, before falling down blinded by Christ on the road to Damascus. And his conversion to the Risen One never meant, for him, breaking with his original faith. The promise of God to Abraham and the covenant on Sinai were always for Paul one and the same with the "new and eternal" covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus. Joseph Ratzinger has written memorable pages on this unity between the Old and New Testament, in his book "Jesus of Nazareth."

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