BY CINDY WOODEN IN ROME
NOW IS THE TIME for a "broad, precise and detailed" reflection on what the ecumenical movement has achieved, where it has stalled and what is needed to move the search for Christian unity forward, Pope Benedict XVI has said.
"One could say that we find ourselves `on the way,' at an intermediate stage, where it appears useful and opportune to examine objectively the results obtained." the Pope said during a meeting of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The council was holding its plenary meeting at the Vatican, focusing on how ecumenical agreements have been received by the Catholic Church and looking at new possibilities for moving forward. It included the presentation
of what the council called a "harvest project", looking at agreements reached over the past 40 years with the Lutheran World Federation. the World Methodist Council, the Anglican Communion and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
Pope Benedict told the council: "While you have outlined that which. with the help of God, already has been achieved in mutual understanding and in identifying elements of convergence. you have not avoided identifying with great honesty that which remains to be done."
The Pope said it was essential to review the past in order to "identify new paths to follow, trying to overcome together the differences that unfortunately still remain in relations among the disciples of Christ".
Looking particularly at relations
with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, Pope Benedict said significant steps forward had been made in the theological dialogue and in the "consolidation and growth of eccicsial fraternity-.
"It is consoling to note how a sincere spirit of friendship between Catholics and Orthodox has been growing in these years,he said.
Cardinal Walter Kasper. president of the council, told the Pope that, while council mem identified "many good produced by the ecume
dialogues, "we cannot clo Ur eyes to the current situation, tittfiew difficulties and ehallenges"..
"We have identified new rob lems and looked for ways them," he said. "We als re convinced that recent difficlities cannot be a motive for sling down or abandoning our coriiit ment; rather, they must be a stimulus for reinforcing and intensifying it and for seeking new ways and methods to bring it to completion."'
Without mentioning any specific ecumenical difficulties Cardinal Kasper said one of the chief barriers to unity is differences in the way Christians interpret the word. of God and the weight they give to Christian tradition.