Friday, September 23, 2011

VATICAN: POPE: ECUMENISM IN GERMANY- LUTHERANS- MUSLIMS- OTHER SPEECHES










RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Friday afternoon Pope Benedict took part in an ecumenical service in the church of the former Augustinian convent in Erfurt, Germany, once the home of Martin Luther. Over 300 people took part in the service, including representatives of various German Protestant communities.

Below is the translation of the pope’s homily during the celebration:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through them” (Jn 17:20). According to the Gospel of John, Jesus spoke these words to the Father in the Upper Room. He intercedes for coming generations of believers. He looks beyond the Upper Room, towards the future. He also prayed for us. And he prayed for our unity. This prayer of Jesus is not simply something from the past. He stands before the Father, for ever making intercession for us. At this moment he also stands in our midst and he desires to draw us into his own prayer. In the prayer of Jesus we find the very heart of our unity. We will become one if we allow ourselves to be drawn into this prayer. Whenever we gather in prayer as Christians, Jesus’ concern for us, and his prayer to the Father for us, ought to touch our hearts. The more we allow ourselves to be drawn into this event, the more we grow in unity.

Did Jesus’ prayer go unheard? The history of Christianity is in some sense the visible element of this drama in which Christ strives and suffers with us human beings. Ever anew he must endure the rejection of unity, yet ever anew unity takes place with him and thus with the triune God. We need to see both things: the sin of human beings, who reject God and withdraw within themselves, but also the triumphs of God, who upholds the Church despite her weakness, constantly drawing men and women closer to himself and thus to one another. For this reason, in an ecumenical gathering, we ought not only to regret our divisions and separations, but we should also give thanks to God for all the elements of unity which he has preserved for us and bestows on us ever anew. And this gratitude must be at the same time a resolve not to lose, at a time of temptations and perils, the unity thus bestowed.

Our fundamental unity comes from the fact that we believe in God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth. And that we confess that he is the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The highest unity is not the solitude of a monad, but rather a unity born of love. We believe in God – the real God. We believe that God spoke to us and became one of us. To bear witness to this living God is our common task at the present time.

Does man need God, or can we do quite well without him? When, in the first phase of God’s absence, his light continues to illumine and sustain the order of human existence, it appears that things can also function without God. But the more the world withdraws from God, the clearer it becomes that man, in his hubris of power, in his emptiness of heart and in his longing for satisfaction and happiness, increasingly loses his life. A thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings. Man was created to have a relationship with God; we need him. Our primary ecumenical service at this hour must be to bear common witness to the presence of the living God and in this way to give the world the answer which it needs. Naturally, an absolutely central part of this fundamental witness to God is a witness to Jesus Christ, true man and true God, who lived in our midst, suffered and died for us and, in his resurrection, flung open the gates of death. Dear friends, let us strengthen one another in this faith! This is a great ecumenical task which leads us into the heart of Jesus’ prayer.

The seriousness of our faith in God is shown by the way we live his word. In our own day, it is shown in a very practical way by our commitment to that creature which he wished in his own image: to man. We live at a time of uncertainty about what it means to be human. Ethics are being replaced by a calculation of consequences. In the face of this, we as Christians must defend the inviolable dignity of human beings from conception to death – from issues of prenatal diagnosis to the question of euthanasia. As Romano Guardini once put it: “Only those who know God, know man.” Without knowledge of God, man is easily manipulated. Faith in God must take concrete form in a common defence of man. To this defence of man belong not only these fundamental criteria of what it means to be human, but above all and very specifically, love, as Jesus taught us in the account of the final judgement (Mt 25): God will judge us on how we respond to our neighbour, to the least of his brethren. Readiness to help, amid the needs of the present time and beyond our immediate circle, is an essential task of the Christian.

This is true first and foremost in our personal lives as individuals. It also holds true in our community, as a people and a state in which we must all be responsible for one another. It holds true for our continent, in which we are called to European solidarity. Finally, it is true beyond all frontiers: today Christian love of neighbour also calls for commitment to justice throughout the world. I know that Germans and Germany are doing much to enable all men and women to live in dignity, and for this I would like to express deep gratitude.

In conclusion, I would like to mention an even deeper dimension of our commitment to love. The seriousness of our faith is shown especially when it inspires people to put themselves totally at the disposal of God and thus of other persons. Great acts of charity become concrete only when, on the ground, we find persons totally at the service of others; they make the love of God credible. People of this sort are an important sign of the truth of our faith.

Prior to the Pope’s visit there was some talk of an “ecumenical gift” which was expected from this visit. There is no need for me to specify the gifts mentioned in this context. Here I would only say that this reflects a political misreading of faith and of ecumenism. In general, when a Head of State visits a friendly country, contacts between the various parties take place beforehand to arrange one or more agreements between the two states: by weighing respective benefits and drawbacks a compromise is reached which in the end appears beneficial for both parties, so that a treaty can then be signed. But the faith of Christians does not rest on such a weighing of benefits and drawbacks. A self-made faith is worthless. Faith is not something we work out intellectually or negotiate between us. It is the foundation for our lives. Unity grows not by the weighing of benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the faith in our thoughts and in our lives. In the past fifty years, and especially after the visit of Pope John Paul II some thirty years ago, we have drawn much closer together, and for this we can only be grateful. I willingly think of the meeting with the Commission led by Bishop Lohse, in which this kind of joint growth in reflecting upon and living the faith was practised. To all those engaged in that process – and especially, on the Catholic side, to Cardinal Lehmann – I wish to express my deep gratitude. I will refrain from mentioning other names – the Lord knows them all. Together we can only thank the Lord for the paths of unity on which he has led us, and unite ourselves in humble trust to his prayer: Grant that we may all be one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe that he has sent you (cf. Jn 17:21).

http://www.radiovaticana.org/en1/Articolo.asp?c=522914



THE SHARED FOUNDATIONS OF LAW

VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 4.15 p.m. today the Holy Father travelled from the apostolic nunciature in Berlin to the Reichstag where he was welcomed by the president of the German Federal Parliament. He held a brief meeting with the five chief office holders of the German State: the president, the chancellor and the presidents of the Bundestag, the Bundesrat and of the Federal Constitutional Court. He also greeted the leaders of the various parliamentary groups. He was then accompanied to the hall of the Reichstag where he listened to a speech by Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICAN)

In his own address to the Parliament, Benedict XVI affirmed that politics "must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. Naturally a politician will seek success, as this is what opens up for him the possibility of effective political action. Yet success is subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right". Without this, "success can be seductive and thus can open up the path towards the falsification of what is right, towards the destruction of justice".

"We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre", said the Holy Father. "We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right - a highly organised band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss".

For this reason, "to serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician", especially today. But, "how do we recognise what is right?" asked Pope Benedict. He explained that "for the fundamental issues of law, in which the dignity of man and of humanity is at stake, the majority principle is not enough. ... This conviction was what motivated resistance movements to act against the Nazi regime and other totalitarian regimes, thereby doing a great service to justice and to humanity as a whole. For these people, it was indisputably evident that the law in force was actually unlawful".

Restoring the cultural heritage of Europe

"In terms of the underlying anthropological issues, what is right and may be given the force of law is in no way simply self-evident today", said the Holy Father, recalling how, throughout history, "systems of law have almost always been based on religion". However, "unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed body of law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law. ... For the development of law and for the development of humanity, it was highly significant that Christian theologians aligned themselves against the religious law associated with polytheism and on the side of philosophy, and that they acknowledged reason and nature in their inter-relation as the universally valid source of law".

"This seemed to offer a clear explanation of the foundations of legislation up to the time of the Enlightenment, up to the time of the Declaration on Human Rights after World War II", however "there has been a dramatic shift in the situation in the last half-century". Due to the predominance of a positivist conception of nature and reason, "the idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into discussion in a non-Catholic environment".

"A positivist conception of nature as purely functional ... is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law. ... The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding which is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason. ... Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field. ... This is a dramatic situation which affects everyone, and on which a public debate is necessary.

"The positivist approach to nature and reason", Pope Benedict added, "is a most important dimension of human knowledge and capacity that we may in no way dispense with". But, "where positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture, ... it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity. I say this with Europe specifically in mind, where there are concerted efforts to recognise only positivism as a common culture and a common basis for law-making, so that all the other insights and values of our culture are reduced to the level of subculture, with the result that Europe vis-a-vis other world cultures is left in a state of 'culturelessness' and at the same time extremist and radical movements emerge to fill the vacuum".

This is why it is so important for reason and nature to rediscover their true greatness, and reassert themselves in their "true depth, with all its demands, with all its directives", said the Pope. We must "listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly", bearing in mind that "man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he listens to his nature, respects it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled".

"At this point Europe's cultural heritage ought to come to our assistance. The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people's responsibility for their actions.

"Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. ... The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between ... Israel's monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. ... In the awareness of man's responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history".

Having completed his address, Benedict XVI withdrew for a few moments before meeting with members of the Jewish community.

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POPE UNDERLINES CHURCH'S CLOSENESS TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE

VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 5.15 p.m. today Benedict XVI met with fifteen representatives of the German Jewish community, led by their president, Dieter Graumann. In his remarks to them, the Pope recalled his visit to the synagogue of Cologne on 19 August 2005, when Rabbi Teitelbaum had spoken of memory "as one of the supporting pillars that are needed if a future of peace is to be built".

"Today", said the Holy Father, "I find myself in a central place of remembrance, the appalling remembrance that it was from here that the Shoah, the annihilation of our Jewish fellow citizens in Europe, was planned and organised. Before the Nazi terror, there were about half a million Jews living in Germany, and they formed a stable component of German society. After World War II, Germany was considered the 'Land of the Shoah', where it had become virtually impossible to live. Initially there were hardly any efforts to re-establish the old Jewish communities, even though Jewish individuals and families were constantly arriving from the East. Many of them wanted to emigrate and build a new life, especially in the United States orIsrael".

The Pope went on: "In this place, remembrance must also be made of the 'Kristallnacht' that took place from 9 to 10 November 1938. Only a few could see the full extent of this act of contempt for humanity, like the Berlin Cathedral Provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who cried out from the pulpit of St. Hedwig's Cathedral: 'Outside, the Temple is burning - that too is the house of God'. The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in Him. The supposedly 'almighty' Adolf Hitler was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men. Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God, the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end of the war showed".

The Holy Father went on to express his joy at the fact that, despite past history, Jewish life is now blossoming in Germany and the community has made great efforts to integrate Eastern European immigrants.

"The Church feels a great closeness to the Jewish people", he said. "With the Vatican Council II Declaration 'Nostra Aetate', an 'irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship' was made. This is true of the Catholic Church as a whole. ... Naturally it is also true of the Catholic Church inGermany, which is conscious of its particular responsibility in this regard". In this context the Pope mentioned a number of initiatives to strengthen Jewish-Christian relations, such as the "Week of Fraternity", the "Jews and Christians Forum" and the "historic meeting for Jewish-Christian dialogue that took place in March 2006 with the participation of Cardinal Walter Kasper".

"We Christians must also become increasingly aware of our own inner affinity with Judaism. For Christians, there can be no rupture in salvation history. Salvation comes from the Jews. When Jesus' conflict with the Judaism of His time is superficially interpreted as a breach with the Old Covenant, it tends to be reduced to the idea of a liberation that views the Torah merely as a slavish enactment of rituals and outward observances. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount does not abolish the Mosaic Law, but reveals its hidden possibilities and allows more radical demands to emerge. It points us towards the deepest source of human action, the heart, where choices are made between what is pure and what is impure, where faith, hope and love blossom forth.

"The message of hope contained in the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament has been appropriated and continued in different ways by Jews and Christians. 'After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task to bring these two ways of rereading the biblical texts - the Christian way and the Jewish way - into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God's will and His word aright'. This dialogue should serve to strengthen our common hope in God in the midst of an increasingly secularised society. Without this hope, society loses its humanity", the Pope concluded.

Following his meeting with the Jewish community, the Pope travelled by car toBerlin's Olympic stadium for the celebration of Mass.

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WHOEVER BELIEVES IN CHRIST HAS A FUTURE

VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. today the Holy Father arrived by car at Berlin's Olympic stadium to celebrate Mass with large numbers of faithful who had gathered there from Germany and surrounding countries. In the same stadium fifteen years ago, John Paul II had presided at the beatification of Karl Leisner and Bernhard Lichtenberg.

In his homily, Benedict XVI commented on the parable of the vine shoots taken from today's Gospel reading. When Jesus says "I am the vine, you are the branches", what He means is that "I am you and you are I, an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, His Church. ... He continues to live in His Church in this world. He is present among us, and we are with him", said the Pope.

In this parable, Jesus says "my Father is the vine grower" who cuts off the withered branches and prunes the fruit-bearing ones, so that they bring forth more fruit. This means that God "wants to bestow new life upon us, full of vitality. Christ came to call sinners. It is they who need the doctor. ... Hence, as Vatican Council II expresses it, the Church is the 'universal Sacrament of salvation', existing for sinners in order to open up to them the path of conversion, healing and life. That is the Church's true and great mission, entrusted to her by Christ".

Reasons for disenchantment with the Church

The Holy Father continued: "Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organisations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the 'Church'. If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the Church is no longer seen.

"It follows that belonging to the vine, to the Church, is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people's superficial and mistaken notions of 'Church', their 'dream Church', fail to materialise".

Later the Pope went on to explain how Jesus invites us to abide in Him. "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me ... If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned".

"The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the existential significance of our life choices. At the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ Himself came into this world through His incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, ... God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we 'abide' in Christ, in the vine".

This is of particular importance in our own "era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived. ... The risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. ... Future, life and joy are to be found in Christ.

"To abide in Christ means to abide in the Church as well" the Pope added. "The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. ... Within this communion He supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. ... We do not believe alone, but we believe with the whole Church.

"The Church, as the herald of God's word and dispenser of the Sacraments, joins us to Christ, the true vine. ... The Church is God's most beautiful gift. ... With and in the Church we may proclaim to all people that Christ is the source of life, that He exists, that He is the one for Whom we long so much. He gives himself. Whoever believes in Christ has a future. For God ... wants what is fruitful and alive, He wants life in its fullness".

In closing the Holy Father expressed the hope that the faithful may increasingly discover "the joy of being joined to Christ in the Church, that you may find comfort and redemption in your time of need and that you may increasingly become the precious wine of Christ's joy and love for this world".

Following the Eucharistic celebration, Benedict XVI travelled back to the apostolic nunciature by car, arriving at about 9 p.m.

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FRUITFUL COLLABORATION BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS

VATICAN CITY, 23 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At the apostolic nunciature in Berlin at 9 a.m. today, the Holy Father met with representatives of the Muslim community in Germany. Muslims in Germanynumber around 4.5 million; 70 percent of them are of Turkish of origin while others come from Arab countries, the Balkans and Iran.

In his remarks to the group the Pope recalled how "from the 1970s onwards, the presence of numerous Muslim families has increasingly become a distinguishing mark of this country". In this context he highlighted the importance of constant effort, not only "for peaceful coexistence, but also for the contribution that each can make towards building up the common good in this society.

"Many Muslims attribute great importance to the religious dimension of life", he added. "At times this is thought provocative in a society that tends to marginalise religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual's personal choices. The Catholic Church firmly advocates that due recognition be given to the public dimension of religious adherence. In an overwhelmingly pluralist society, this demand is not unimportant. Care must be taken to guarantee that others are always treated with respect. Mutual respect grows only on the basis of agreement on certain inalienable values that are proper to human nature, in particular the inviolable dignity of every single person".

The Holy Father went on: "In Germany - as in many other countries, not only Western ones - this common frame of reference is articulated by the Constitution, whose juridical content is binding on every citizen, whether he belong to a faith community or not. Naturally, discussion over the best formulation of principles like freedom of public worship is vast and open-ended, yet it is significant that the Basic Law expresses them in a way that is still valid today at a distance of over sixty years".

"The reason for this seems to me to lie in the fact that the fathers of the Basic Law at that important moment were fully conscious of the need to find particularly solid ground with which all citizens would be able to identify. In seeking this, they did not prescind from their own religious beliefs. ... But they knew they had to engage with the followers of other religions and none: common ground was found in the recognition of some inalienable rights that are proper to human nature and precede every positive formulation. In this way, an essentially homogeneous society laid the foundations that we today consider valid for a markedly pluralistic world, foundations that actually point out the evident limits of pluralism: it is inconceivable, in fact, that a society could survive in the long term without consensus on fundamental ethical values".

At the end of his address, Benedict XVI underlined the importance of fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims as part of the process of building "a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past. As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society", such as "the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice".

At the end of the meeting the Pope travelled to Berlin airport where, at 10 a.m., he boarded a plane to travel to Erfurt".

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FAITH THOUGHT OUT AND LIVED AFRESH WILL SAVE CHRISTIANITY

VATICAN CITY, 23 SEP 2011 (VIS) - Following a brief visit to the cathedral in Erfurt, the Holy Father travelled by car to the city's ancient Augustinian convent where he met with the German Evangelical Church Council. The GermanEvangelical Church, a union of twenty-two Lutheran Churches, has more than 24 million faithful, around 30 percent of the population.

Benedict XVI was greeted on arrival by Pastor Nikolaus Schneider, president of the German Evangelical Church, and by Bishop Ilse Junkermann of the Evangelical Church of Thuringia. They accompanied him to the main hall, the only building in the convent to have remained unchanged since the time Martin Luther was a monk there.

The Pope spoke of the emotion he felt, as Bishop of Rome, on finding himself in the place where Martin Luther had studied theology and been ordained a priest in 1507. "The question of God", he said, was Luther's "deep passion", the "driving force of his whole life's journey. 'How do I receive the grace of God?': this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle".

"'How do I receive the grace of God?' The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me", the Holy Father went on. "For who is actually concerned about this today, even among Christians? ... Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. ... Nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately He mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small? ... Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, ... the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation?"

"If love for God and godly love of neighbour - of His creatures, of men and women - were more alive in us", hunger and poverty would not so devastate the world, said the Pope. Thus, "evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God's position towards me, where do I stand before God? - this burning question of Martin Luther - must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. ... This God has a face, and He has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ".

Faith: the strongest force for ecumenism

Faith in Christ must be the starting point for ecumenism. "The first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularisation - everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of Sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as ... our undying foundation".

However two phenomena endanger this communion. Firstly, "a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: ... the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed - the question of our fundamental faith choice".

The second phenomenon is "the secularised context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past".

For this reason "faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this. This is a key ecumenical task. Moreover, we should help one another to develop a deeper and more lively faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith - thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with Him, the living God. ... Faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularised world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord".

At the end of his address, Benedict XVI moved on to the church of the convent where he participated in an ecumenical celebration with 300 people, including representatives from other German Protestant Churches.

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SHARED ECUMENICAL TASK: BEARING WITNESS TO THE LIVING GOD

VATICAN CITY, 23 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At midday today Benedict XVI participated in an ecumenical celebration held at the church of the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. During the ceremony, which was attended by some 300 people, Katrin G. Eickhardt, president of the Synod of the German Evangelical Church, pronounced a greeting, and Evangelical Bishop Friedrich Weber read out Martin Luther's German translation of Psalm 146. The Pope prayed for Christian unity and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, read the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus from the Gospel of St. John. The Holy Father then pronounced a homily, extracts of which are given below.

"'I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through them'. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus spoke these words to the Father in the Upper Room. ... In the prayer of Jesus we find the very heart of our unity. We will become one if we allow ourselves to be drawn into this prayer".

"Did Jesus' prayer go unheard? The history of Christianity is in some sense the visible element of this drama in which Christ strives and suffers with us human beings. Ever anew He must endure the rejection of unity, yet ever anew unity takes place with Him and thus with the Triune God. ... For this reason, in an ecumenical gathering, we ought not only to regret our divisions and separations, but we should also give thanks to God for all the elements of unity which He has preserved for us and bestows on us ever anew. And this gratitude must be at the same time a resolve not to lose, at a time of temptations and perils, the unity thus bestowed.

"Our fundamental unity comes from the fact that we believe in God. ... And that we confess that He is the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The highest unity is not the solitude of a monad, but rather a unity born of love. We believe in God - the real God. We believe that God spoke to us and became one of us. To bear witness to this living God is our common task at the present time.

"A thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings. Man was created to have a relationship with God; we need Him. Our primary ecumenical service at this hour must be to bear common witness to the presence of the living God and in this way to give the world the answer which it needs. Naturally, an absolutely central part of this fundamental witness to God is a witness to Jesus Christ, true man and true God, Who lived in our midst, suffered and died for us and, in His resurrection, flung open the gates of death. Dear friends, let us strengthen one another in this faith! This is a great ecumenical task which leads us into the heart of Jesus' prayer.

"The seriousness of our faith in God is shown by the way we live His word. In our own day, it is shown in a very practical way by our commitment ... to man. We live at a time of uncertainty about what it means to be human. Ethics are being replaced by a calculation of consequences. In the face of this, we as Christians must defend the inviolable dignity of human beings from conception to death - from issues of prenatal diagnosis to the question of euthanasia. ... Faith in God must take concrete form in a common defence of man. To this defence of man belong not only these fundamental criteria of what it means to be human, but above all and very specifically, love, as Jesus taught us in the account of the Final Judgement: God will judge us on how we respond to our neighbour, to the least of his brethren. Readiness to help, amid the needs of the present time and beyond our immediate circle, is an essential task of the Christian.

"This is true first and foremost in our personal lives as individuals. It also holds true in our community, as a people and a State in which we must all be responsible for one another. It holds true for our continent, in which we are called to European solidarity. Finally, it is true beyond all frontiers: today Christian love of neighbour also calls for commitment to justice throughout the world".

"Prior to the Pope's visit there was some talk of an 'ecumenical gift' which was expected from this visit. There is no need for me to specify the gifts mentioned in this context. Here I would only say that this reflects a political misreading of faith and of ecumenism. In general, when a head of State visits a friendly country, contacts between the various parties take place beforehand to arrange one or more agreements between the two States: by weighing respective benefits and drawbacks a compromise is reached which in the end appears beneficial for both parties, so that a treaty can then be signed. But the faith of Christians does not rest on such a weighing of benefits and drawbacks. A self-made faith is worthless. Faith is not something we work out intellectually or negotiate between us. It is the foundation for our lives. Unity grows not by the weighing of benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the faith in our thoughts and in our lives.

"In the past fifty years, and especially after the visit of John Paul II some thirty years ago, we have drawn much closer together. ... To all those engaged in that process ... I wish to express my deep gratitude. ... Together we can only thank the Lord for the paths of unity on which He has led us, and unite ourselves in humble trust to this prayer: Grant that we may all be one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe that He has sent you".

The meeting closed with all those present praying the Our Father together, after which Pastor Nikolaus Schneider pronounced a blessing after the manner of Aaron and the Pope gave his blessing in the Trinitarian form.

PV-GERMANY/VIS 20110923 (1060)

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