.- At the conclusion of his fourth day in Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI prayed with members of Germany’s Orthodox and Protestant community. Leading a Vesper service at Regensburg’s Cathedral, the Pontiff told those gathered that they must not loose track of what is central to their dialogue - their common belief in Christ - and that they should bear witness to their common faith “in such a way that it shines forth as the power of love.”
The liturgy, which was punctuated by German hymns, common to all traditions, also included traditional Orthodox chant and a response from leaders of all three Christian groups.
Pope Benedict began his reflection by welcoming the religious leaders and noting that at the heart of the liturgy is the praying of the Psalms, which connects the Christian church with Jewish believers as well.
Benedict next noted the ongoing dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, especially the conversations which are taking place in Germany itself. “I hope and pray that these discussions will be fruitful and that the communion with the living God which unites us, like our own communion in the faith transmitted by the Apostles, will grow in depth and maturity towards that full unity.”
“’So that the world may believe,’” the Pope emphasized, “we must become one: the seriousness of this commitment must spur on our dialogue.”
The Pope then turned to welcome “the various traditions stemming from the Reformation.” While he noted the particular work being done in the attempt to reach a consensus on justification, the Pope also pointed to a problem arising in society at large. “Our modern consciousness, in general, is no longer aware of the fact that we stand as debtors before God and that sin is a reality which can be overcome only by God’s initiative. Behind this weakening of the theme of justification and of the forgiveness of sins is ultimately a weakening of our relation with God. In this sense, our first task will perhaps be to rediscover in a new way the living God present in our lives.”
Turning to the liturgy’s reading from the Gospel of St. John, the Pope noted that what ultimately sets Christians apart is the belief that “Jesus is the Son of God who has come in the flesh.” This, he said, must be the starting point of any dialogue. “In this common confession, and in this common task, there is no division between us. And we pray that this shared foundation will grow ever stronger.”
From this starting point, Benedict continued, we must become witnesses. And not just empty witnesses, but witnesses in love. As the reading points out, he concluded, “’We know and believe the love God has for us’. Yes, man can believe in love. Let us bear witness to our faith in such a way that it shines forth as the power of love, ‘so that the world may believe (Jn 17:21).’”