Vatican synod to examine when divided Christians can preach together
The potential power, but also the limits, of an ecumenical proclamation of the Gospel and defense of Gospel values is likely to be a key topic during October’s world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.
The ecumenical focus will be particularly sharp Oct. 10 when — at the personal invitation of Pope Benedict XVI — Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury will deliver a major address to synod members.
While popes have long invited other Christians to be “fraternal delegates” and make brief speeches at the synods, Pope Benedict has begun a tradition of inviting important religious leaders to deliver a major address. In 2008, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Chief Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen of Haifa, Israel, addressed the Synod of Bishops on the Bible. Another rabbi and two Muslim leaders gave speeches at the 2010 special synod on the Middle East.
Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the invitations demonstrate the pope’s recognition that the “challenges facing religious belief itself and church life are common — no church, no religion is an island — and we need one another and can learn from one another.”
In addition, he said, ecumenical and interreligious cooperation shows the world that “we are together in promoting the values of belief and the moral-ethical values that we stand by.”
Ecumenical cooperation is crucial when trying to transmit the faith in the modern world and to re-propose Christianity in areas, especially Europe and North America, which had a Christian tradition, but are becoming increasingly secularized.
“The mission that the Lord entrusted to the Apostles, to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, has not been fulfilled — mostly because of divisions among his followers,” Bishop Farrell said.
The beginnings of the modern ecumenical movement usually are traced to a 1910 conference of missionaries “who had the experience of being seen as preaching against each other instead of preaching Christ,” he said. The missionaries recognized the scandal they were causing as they “exported their divisions” to Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. [More]