BY CINDY WOODEN, CNS
DIFFERENCES among Christians and between Christians and other religions cannot be ignored but they also cannot be an excuse to stop dialogue, Pope Benedict XVI told religious leaders in Sydney.
The Pope held separate meetings on July 18 with representatives of Australia's Christian communities and with representatives of other religions.
At the ecumenical gathering the Pope said that recognising each other as Christians because of a common baptism was just the beginning of the relationship that should exist among followers of Christ.
"The road of ecumenism ultimately points toward a common celebration of the Eucharist, which Christ entrusted to his Apostles as the sacrament of the Church's unity," he said.
But Pope Benedict also told the Church's Christian dialogue partners: "I think you would agree that the ecumenical movement has reached a critical juncture."
The Pope said Christians must pray for God's help and the Holy Spirit's guidance as they try to follow Scriptures and seek truth.
"We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and, hence, an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live," the Pope said.
The more Christians under
stand what God asks of them and the closer they draw to Christ, the closer they will draw to each other, Pope Benedict said.
The Pope met Christian leaders, including Anglican representatives, while the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference was taking place in England. The conference agenda included discussing ways to strengthen Anglican unity and overcome the threat of splits because of differences regarding the ordination of women and homosexuality.
Pope Benedict has said he hopes the Anglican bishops will find a way to maintain the communion in fidelity to the Gospel and Christian tradition, Anglican Bishop Robert Forsyth, the assistant bishop of Sydney, said he was encouraged by Pope Benedict's teaching about seeking the truth with love and not seeing one another as adversaries.
In many areas, he said, other Christians recognise and appreciate the leadership of the Catholic Church as "a rock in the rapids", defending the importance of salvation in Christ, the supremacy of the Scriptures and "the objectivity of Christian morality".
Bishop Forsyth said he suspects Christians will be united fully only at the end of time.
"As you know, on that day. of the three things that will survive, the greatest is love. And so it is with love, sir, that we welcome you today," he told the Pope.
Pope Benedict went directly from the ecumenical meeting to his meeting with representatives from Australia's Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Zoroastrian communities.
He praised the level of interreligious dialogue and cooperation found in Australia and said: "A harmonious relationship between religion and public life is all the more important at a time when some people have come to consider religion as a cause of division rather than a force for unity."