“We live in a period of great change in almost all areas of life," said the Holy Father, “and we must not be surprised if this also impinges upon the life of the Church and on relations between Christians."
Nonetheless, he added, "the aim of the ecumenical movement remains unchanged: the visible unity of the Church.”
“The Second Vatican Council considered the re-establishment of full unity among all Christians as one of its principal concerns. It is also my concern," the Pope said. Recalling one of the halls in which Vatican Council II took place, "where the observer delegates from other Churches and ecclesial communities sat attentive, but in silence. Over subsequent decades, this image has given way to the reality of a Church in dialogue.”
“Silence, “he continued, “has been transformed into the word of communion. An enormous amount of work has been done at both the universal and local levels.”
“Fraternity among all Christians has been rediscovered and re-established as a condition for dialogue, cooperation, common prayer, and solidarity."
The Holy Father also recalled that “at the time of the Council, many of the venerated Eastern Churches were oppressed by dictatorial regimes.”
“Today they have regained their freedom and are committed to a wide-ranging process of reorganization and revitalization ... The eastern and western parts of Europe are coming closer together, and this encourages Churches to coordinate their efforts to safeguard the Christian tradition.”
“Fortunately,” he added, "following a period of multiple difficulties, theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches has taken on fresh impetus," while "bilateral, open and friendly" dialogue is making progress with the ecclesial communities of the West.
Pope Benedict, nevertheless, listed the still present obstacles, such as “the difficulty of finding a shared conception of the relationship between the Gospel and the Church, of the mystery of the Church and her unity, and of the question of ministry in the Church. New difficulties have arisen in the field of ethics and, as a consequence, the different standpoints taken by the Christian confessions on current problems have reduced their possibility of guiding public opinion."
"What must be promoted above all," the Pope concluded, "is the ecumenism of love, which descends directly from the new commandment left by Jesus to His disciples. Love accompanied by coherent acts generates trust ... Ecumenical formation must also be intensified, on the basis of the fundamentals of Christian faith, in other words from the announcement of the love of God which was revealed in the face of Jesus Christ."
Speaking to the participants at the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pope Benedict recalled that the primary goal of ecumenical dialogue remains the same: to reach one, single, visible Church.