19-April-2008 -- Vatican Information Service |

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TRANSPARENT WITNESS TO THE REASONS FOR OUR HOPE

VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2008 (VIS) - At 6 p.m. local time today, the Holy Father participated in an ecumenical meeting at the church of St. Joseph. The event was attended by 250 representatives from 10 Christian confessions.

At the beginning of his address, the Holy Father expressed his appreciation "for the invaluable work of all those engaged in ecumenism: the National Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together, the Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, and many others. The contribution of Christians in the United States to the ecumenical movement is felt throughout the world", he said.

The Holy Father expressed the opinion that "globalisation has humanity poised between two poles. On the one hand, there is a growing sense of interconnectedness and interdependency between peoples even when - geographically and culturally speaking - they are far apart. ... On the other hand, we cannot deny that the rapid changes occurring in our world also present some disturbing signs of fragmentation and a retreat into individualism".

The Pope then went on to express his concern for "the spread of a secularist ideology that undermines or even rejects transcendent truth. The very possibility of divine revelation, and therefore of Christian faith, is often placed into question by cultural trends widely present in academia, the mass media and public debate. For these reasons, a faithful witness to the Gospel is as urgent as ever. Christians are challenged to give a clear account of the hope that they hold.

"Too often", he added, "those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called 'prophetic actions' that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of 'local options'".

"Faced with these difficulties", the Pope went on, "we must first recall that the unity of the Church flows from the perfect oneness of the Trinitarian God". With reference to the Apostles, he also recalled how "the ultimate effectiveness of their preaching" depended "on the work of the Spirit Who confirmed their authoritative witness".

"The power of the 'kerygma' has lost none of its internal dynamism", he continued. "Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is 'objective', relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling".

The Holy Father made it clear that although "scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean ... that the 'knowable' is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of 'personal experience'.

"For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasise objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimise the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living".

The Pope told the representatives of different Christian confessions that "only by 'holding fast' to sound teaching will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world. Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us.

"Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the 'reasons for our hope', so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us His face and granted us access to His divine life through Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope!"

"May this prayer service", the Holy Father concluded, "exemplify the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement; for without it, ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul".

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