In a Friday meeting with Methodist Bishop Sunday Mbang of Nigeria, who was accompanied by members of the World Methodist Council, Pope Benedict expressed his hope and thanksgiving for the “patient and persevering dialogue” between Methodists and Catholics.
Bishop Mbang is the president of the World Methodist Council (WMC).
The Pope particularly thanked the representatives for "the prayerful presence and support of Methodist representatives at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and at the celebration marking the inauguration of my pontificate."
Noting the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council which was celebrated yesterday, Benedict recalled how Pope Paul VI had "expressed the hope that differences between Christians could be resolved, 'slowly, gradually, loyally, generously.'“
“Now”, he said, “we have to reflect upon the friendly relations between Catholics and Methodists, and upon the patient and persevering dialogue in which we have engaged.”
“Indeed,” the Holy Father stressed, “there is much for which we can today give thanks.”
He then recalled some of the major theological themes which the two churches have begin to discuss, such as, “revelation and faith, tradition and teaching authority in the Church.”
“These efforts have been candid in addressing areas of difference,” he said. “Our dialogue and the many ways in which Catholics and Methodists have become better acquainted have allowed us to recognize together some of those 'Christian treasures of great value.'“
The Pope pointed out that “On occasion, this recognition has enabled us to speak with a common voice in addressing social and ethical questions in an increasingly secularized world."
Likewise, he was appreciative for a new initiative which could bring the World Methodist Council into association with the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’, signed in 1999 by both the Catholic Church and Lutheran World Federation.
This, the Holy Father said, will "assist in contributing to the healing and reconciliation we ardently desire, and would be a significant step towards the stated goal of full visible unity in faith."
Many of the individual Methodist communions who are affiliated with the WMC have approved the Declaration which will receive a final vote during the Council’s 2006 general assembly, due to be held in Seoul, South Korea.