On Saturday, Pope Benedict met with a delegation from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, with whom he stressed the importance of ecumenical dialogue, but warned against the possibility of true dialogue without interior conversion.
The Alliance, which is headed by the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, told the Pope that they were “eager” during their visit “…to pursue with you how Catholic and Reformed Christians might be partners together for God's justice in a world wracked by poverty, war, ecological destruction and the denial of human freedom."
In his own address, Pope Benedict gratefully recalled “the presence of delegations from the World Alliance both at the funeral of my predecessor Pope John Paul II and at the inauguration of my own papal ministry.”
“In these signs of mutual respect and friendship”, he said, “I am pleased to see a providential fruit of the fraternal dialogue and cooperation undertaken in the past four decades, and a token of sure hope for the future."
The Holy Father then went on to recall the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, and the promulgation of the Conciliar Decree on Ecumenism, called "Unitatis Redintegratio."
He said that "The Catholic-Reformed dialogue, which came into existence shortly thereafter, has made an important contribution to the demanding work of theological reflection and historical investigation indispensable for surmounting the tragic divisions which arose among Christians in the sixteenth century.”
"One of the results of the dialogue”, he noted, “has been to show significant areas of convergence between the Reformed understanding of the Church as 'Creatura Verbi' and the Catholic understanding of the Church as the primordial Sacrament of God's outpouring of grace in Christ.”
He also said that “The Decree on Ecumenism affirmed that 'there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion'."
Pope Benedict also recalled that "At the very beginning of my pontificate I voiced my own conviction that 'inner conversion is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress,' and recalled the example of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who often spoke of the need for a 'purification of memory' as a means of opening our hearts to receive the full truth of Christ.”
“The late Pope”, he told the group, “gave a powerful impulse to this endeavor in the Catholic Church, and I am pleased to learn that several of the Reformed Churches ... have undertaken similar initiatives."
The Holy Father concluded his address by stressing that true dialogue "calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange.”
“May we set out with renewed confidence,” he said, “in obedience to the Gospel and with our hope firmly grounded in Christ's prayer for His Church."