(CNS) Pope Benedict XVI underlined the urgent need to address “a profound crisis of faith,” and drew a distinction between true and false ecumenism, in a January 27 address to members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
Speaking to the participants in a plenary session of the Congregation that he headed for nearly 24 years, the Pope warned that “in vast areas of the earth the faith risks being extinguished, like a flame without fuel.” The crisis of faith, he said, is “a loss of a religious sense which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today.”
Pope Benedict reminded the Congregation that he has proclaimed a Year of Faith in a bid to revive that religious sense, and has made the “new evangelization” a priority of his pontificate and the topic of this year’s meeting of the Synod of Bishops.
The plenary meeting of the CDF will discuss the challenges of ecumenical work, and the Pope devoted much of his talk to that subject. He welcomed the fruits of ecumenical dialogue, but cautioned against the inappropriate use of that process:
Yet we must also recognize that the risks of indifference and of false Iienicism, completely alien to the mindset of Vatican Council II, require us to be vigilant. Such indifference is caused by the increasingly widespread opinion that truth is not accessible to man and that, therefore, we must limit ourselves to finding rules to improve this world. In this scenario, faith comes to be replaced by a shallow-rooted moralism. By contrast, the core of true ecumenism is faith, in which man encounters the truth revealed in the Word of God.
To guard against false ecumenism, the Pope suggested making a careful distinction between the Tradition of the Church, denoted with a “capital T,” and the different (“small t”) traditions of Christian denominations. He suggested that Anglicanorum Coetibus opened a way for the Catholic Church to accept the distinct traditions of the Anglican community without compromising the Tradition of the universal Church. In ecumenical work, the Pope continued, the Catholic Church should work with all interested ecumenical partners to preserve the teachings of Tradition in today’s world. Such a united witness is important, he said, on “the great moral questions about human life, family, sexuality, bioethics, freedom, justice and peace.”