Benedict XVI has urged an ecumenical gathering to collaborate in support of families in which spouses belong to different Christian confessions.
The Pope made this proposal in Poland, last month when addressing a gathering in the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Warsaw. The Holy Father confirmed that the quest for Christian unity is one of the priorities of his pontificate.
He also called for a common dedication to mutual relations of sincere charity ‘in such a way that, in the light of these, all may know that the Father sent the Son and that he loves the Church and each one of us just as he loved the Son.’
Benedict XVI explained that the work for unity is the responsibility of every Christian.
‘The task of Christ’s disciples,’ he said, ‘the task of each of us, therefore, is to tend toward that unity, in such a way that we become, as Christians, the visible sign of his saving message, addressed to every human being.
‘We note much progress in the field of ecumenism and yet we always await something more,’ the Pontiff said. ‘Allow me to draw attention to two questions for today, in somewhat greater detail.’
‘The first concerns the charitable service of the churches. There are many brothers and sisters who expect from us the gift of love, of trust, of witness, of spiritual and concrete material help.
‘In the spirit of the Gospel commandment, we must assume this devoted solicitude toward those in need, whoever they may be. In this regard, I wrote in my encyclical that “the building of a better world requires Christians to speak with a united voice in working to inculcate respect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the poor, the lowly and the defenseless.”’
‘Brotherly love,’ the Pope explained, ‘will bring us ever closer to one another and render our witness in favour of Christ more credible before the world.’
The second area of collaboration proposed by the Pope is support for the family, especially when it involves interdenominational marriages.
‘In today’s world, in which international and intercultural relations are multiplying, it happens increasingly often that young people from different traditions, different religions, or different Christian denominations, decide to start a family,’ he said.
‘For the young people themselves, and for those dear to them, it is often a difficult decision that brings with it various dangers concerning both perseverance in the faith and the future structuring of the family, the creation of an atmosphere of unity in the family and of suitable conditions for the spiritual growth of the children.
‘Nevertheless, thanks to the spread of ecumenical dialogue, the decision can lead to the formation of a practical laboratory of unity.
‘For this to happen, there is a need for mutual goodwill, understanding and maturity in faith of both parties, and also of the communities from which they come,’ he said.
Benedict XVI thanked the Bilateral Commission of the Council for Ecumenical Issues of the Polish bishops’ conference and of the Polish Council for Ecumenism, which has begun to draft a document on common Christian teaching on marriage and family life and establishing principles for contracting interdenominational marriages.
‘To all of you,’ the Pontiff said, ‘I express the wish that in this delicate area reciprocal trust and cooperation between the Churches may grow, fully respecting the rights and responsibility of the spouses for the faith formation of their own family and the education of their children.’