Pope Benedict XVI said at a Sept. 23 meeting of Christian churches that their unity cannot be artificially engineered by committee and compromise.
“The faith of Christians does not rest on such a weighing of benefits and drawbacks. A self-made faith is worthless. Faith is not something we work out intellectually or negotiate between us,” said the Pope in his address to a joint prayer service of Catholics and Lutherans on the second day of his state visit to Germany.
Christian faith, he said, “is the foundation for our lives,” and so “unity grows not by the weighing of benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the faith in our thoughts and in our lives.”
The Pope was participating in an ecumenical celebration held at the church of the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. During the ceremony, which was attended by some 300 people, the Pope greeted leaders of the German Evangelical Church before listening to a Lutheran bishop read out Martin Luther's German translation of Psalm 146.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, read the high priestly prayer of Jesus from the Gospel of St. John. In response, the Pope suggested that Jesus’ prayer formed a starting point for any attempts to undo the disunity created by Luther at the Reformation.
“In the prayer of Jesus we find the very heart of our unity. We will become one if we allow ourselves to be drawn into this prayer,” he said.
“Whenever we gather in prayer as Christians, Jesus’ concern for us, and his prayer to the Father for us, ought to touch our hearts. The more we allow ourselves to be drawn into this event, the more we grow in unity.”
He also said it was important to recognize the great strides taken by many towards this goal in recent years, and to “give thanks to God for all the elements of unity which he has preserved for us and bestows on us ever anew.”
Christians should not simply to “regret our divisions and separations,” he added.
The common task of all Christians at the present time, the Pope said, is “to bear witness to this living God” in a society which feels it can get by without him.
While this may seem possible in the short term, “the more the world withdraws from God, the clearer it becomes that man, in his hubris of power, in his emptiness of heart and in his longing for satisfaction and happiness, increasingly loses his life.”
The reason for this is that “a thirst for the infinite is indelibly present in human beings” because “man was created to have a relationship with God; we need him,” said the Pope.
He then said Christians can show man’s need for God in “a very practical way by our commitment to that creature which he wished in his own image: to man,” starting with the Christian duty to “defend the inviolable dignity of human beings from conception to death – from issues of prenatal diagnosis to the question of euthanasia.”
The meeting closed with all those present praying the Our Father together and Pope Benedict imparting his apostolic blessing.