Vatican (Fides Service) – “Certainly the ecumenical path is no easy one way. As we progress gradually obstacles are more easily perceived and difficulties are more keenly felt. The goal declared by the various theological dialogues in which the Catholic Church is involved with other Churches and Communions seems at times to be even problematic. The prospect of full visible communion can sometimes engender painful phenomena and reactions in those who wish to accelerate the process at all costs or in those who are discouraged by the long path ahead. Nevertheless at the school of ecumenism we are learning to live with humble trust this intermediate period aware that it is in any case a period of no return”. This is part of a Message addressed by Pope John Paul II to Cardinal Walter Kasper President of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Unity among Christians, on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Council from 3 to 8 November on the theme “Ecumenical spirituality”.
“Together we wish to overcome disputes and difficulties together we wish to recognise failings and delay with regard to unity, we wish to restore the desire for reconciliation wherever it appears to be threatened by diffidence and suspicion” the Pope writes in his message recalling that ecumenical activity is certainly not marginal in the traditional activity of the Church. “Like a beacon which guides in the darkness of division inherited from many centuries of sins against unity, the remains the unwavering hope that the Spirit of Christ will sustain us in this crossing…the power of love pushes us towards one another and helps us to prepare to listen, dialogue, conversion and renewal ”.
Referring to the theme of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Unity of Christians– “Ecumenical spirituality” -, the Pope quotes his encyclical Letter Ut unum sint: "On the ecumenical journey towards unity, first place goes undoubtedly to common prayer, prayerful union of those who gather together around Christ " (n. 22). The Pope then encourages the celebration of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” and he encourages “the faithful of the Catholic Church not to forget prayer for the unity of Christians in their daily conversation with God.”
Looking at the path travelled since the Second Vatican Council, the Pope says: “we can see that we have travelled a considerable part of the way and we have entered the very heart of divisions where they are most painful. This has come about thanks above all thanks to prayer. We must therefore realise the "primacy" which must be attributed to prayer.” The Pope ends his message expressing the wish that the Plenary will produce “new intuitions to broaden ecumenical spirituality and root it more deeply in the hearts of all. This will serve as an effective antidote to discouragement, doubt and hesitation. Truly the sacrifice most pleasing to God is peace and fraternal harmony among Christians.” (S.L.) (Fides Service 5/11/2003; lines 36 – words 500)