.- Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, last night presided in the name of the Holy Father at the celebration of Vespers at the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The week reached its conclusion on the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.
In his homily, which focused on "Jesus Christ, Our Common Foundation," the cardinal quoted St. Paul's words to the Corinthians - "No one may lay a foundation different from that already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
“This is the reason for our ecumenical commitment", he told the assembled religious leaders.
"Today," the Cardinal went on, "at the start of the new year, we do not wish to look to the past but rather to the future, the future of ecumenism. From its very beginnings, at the start of the 20th century, the ecumenical movement has known great changes in the world and in our Churches.”
The ecumenical situation itself is quite different. At times, the initial impulse seems to run the risk of falling into a lethargic state and of losing its credibility. On one side signs of reticence and resistance emerge and, on the other, signs of resignation and frustration.”
“Therefore,” he challenged, “we cannot continue to repeat 'business as usual'. What must we do? What can we do?"
We must reflect, said Cardinal Kasper, on Jesus Christ, our foundation, on "faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Who is the foundation of our baptism, which makes us Christians, incorporating us into the Church. ...”
Jesus Christ is not only the foundation but also the goal of our ecumenical commitment: in Him we will be one. ...”
Precisely today, in post-modern society when everything becomes relative and arbitrary, and everyone creates his or her own religion a la carte, we need a solid foundation and a trustworthy common reference point for our personal life and our ecumenical work."
The cardinal asked his audience, "What does this mean concretely? I will mention only three consequences. In the first place, it is over the Bible that we are divided and it is only through reading, studying and meditating on the Bible that we can rediscover unity.”
Secondly, through Baptism we are incorporated into Jesus Christ. In our ecumenical commitment, we don't start from zero. Through Baptism we are already in a fundamental communion that unites us to Christ and unites us one to the other.”
Thirdly, Jesus Christ is present in the Church through His Word and His sacraments. He is the Head of the Church and the Church is His Body."
In his concluding remarks, Cardinal Kasper said: "We can and must distinguish Christ from the Church, but we cannot separate one from the other.”
St. Augustine taught us the formula 'Christus totus', the fullness of Christ as Head and Body. And this is the deepest point of divergence between the Churches and the ecclesial communities of the West, which impedes us from fully being signs and instruments of Christ."