As the Church continues its celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Benedict today met with an ecumenical Christian delegation from Finland, to whom he stressed the importance of appreciating what already unites Christians, despite deep differences.
The visit came on the occasion of today's Feast of St. Henry, patron saint of Finland.
The Pope began his address by recalling how his predecessor, John Paul II, regularly welcomed members of the delegation during their annual pilgrimage to Rome.
He said that, "These visits are an occasion for further productive work, as well as for a deepening of the 'spiritual ecumenism' which prompts divided Christians to appreciate how much already unites them."
The Pope stressed that "the present Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland and Sweden builds upon the substantial accomplishment of the Joint Declaration on Justification (1999).”
“In the specific context of the Nordic countries,” he said, “the Commission is continuing to study the achievements and practical implications of the Joint Declaration. In this way it seeks to address the still existing differences between Lutherans and Catholics concerning certain questions of faith and ecclesial life while maintaining fervent witness to the truth of the Gospel.”
He added that "During these days of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we are especially aware that unity is a grace, and that we need continually to ask the Lord for this gift."
Pope Benedict concluded his address by charging the group to “thank God for all that has been achieved so far in Catholic-Lutheran relations and let us pray that He may fill us with His Spirit Who guides us towards the fullness of truth and love."