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During yesterday’s general audience, Pope Benedict XVI went into quite some detail when he discussed the progress made in ecumenism in 2009. It’s a fitting topic in the Week for Christian Unity.
Ecumenism is not as easy and straightforward as it is sometimes portrayed as. It is ultimately not about being nice to each other and respecting differences. That is merely the starting point. In the end, ecumenism is about unity, the unity that Christ prayed for.
Ecumenism is also not a human endeavour. Sure, we can do our very best and achieve a lot on our own, but, as the Holy Father explains, we are part of God’s Church, and therefrore He will create unity when He wants it and when He thinks us ready.
Tomorrow I’ll be attending a ‘conference meeting’ of the various Christian student and study organisations here in Groningen, organised by the GSP. I’ll do so representing the student parish, together with Father Wagenaar, Guido, Inge and Maurits. Initially I tagged along out of interest: this conference sounds like a great opportunity to do some networking and establish some contacts, which would hopefully lead to us reaching more people. But yesterday I found I also have to hold a short introductory speech…
Well, I volunteered, to be honest, since there was no time for lengthy discussions about who would do it and what would be said. Reading the program, though, makes me wonder if this was smart: they’re talking about sharp questions and ‘pushing people hard’… Uh-oh.
But the conference sounds interesting. There’ll be a speech from the rector magnificus of the university, a lecture on ‘open communication’ and an opportunity to discuss things with other groups.
I’m curious to see what it’s all like and hopeful that we can further the ‘fame’ of the student parish.
Some extra information, in Dutch, here.
Some words from Bishop Arborelius of Stockholm in the Week for Christian Unity, from Tertio. Sweden is overwhelmingly Protestant which makes the Catholic experience of this Week rather different than in, say, Italy. Thoughts on ecumenism inside and outside the Church.
By Emmanuel Van Lierde
Half of the 163 priests in Sweden are members of a religious order, including the bishop of Stockholm, Anders Arborelius (1949). He entered the Carmelite order in 1971 and received his philosophical and theological education in Bruges. That is why he speaks Dutch and often likes to visit Belgium. Next Wednesday he will speak at a conference on ecumenism with his order in Ghent.
“Living a contemplative life as a bishop is a continuous challenge. But I see it as a great help and treasure in performing my duties. Through prayer we learn to trust in God, diminishing our earthly cares. And many Christians from other denominations are open to the Carmelite spirituality, which means that my being a Carmelite is a boon to ecumenism. It is striking that we have a large number of contemplative convents in this Lutheran country. The appeal of those convents is one of the strongest trump cards of our church,” the bishops says.
The dialogue with other Christian churches is evident to him. “When you are a Catholic in a Lutheran country, you automatically enter into a relationship with Lutherans. Of course there are dogmatic differences and recently some ethical disputes were added to that. We have different opinions on homosexual relations and abortion, but that does not stop us from praying together, to enter into dialogue or share our lives.” In the past decades Arborelius saw how the Catholic Church was integrated better into Swedish society. “Unity is not just as assignment between the various Christian church communities. It is equally a task within churches. Most Catholics i Sweden come from abroad and so our first job lies in uniting all those nationalities. We can improve their integration, as a church, and they can in turn contribute to evangelising society.”
The greatest challenge for all religious groups is the increasing secularisation which especially hits the Lutheran church. “As Christians, we’d better join our forces, because Europe is rapidly falling for secularisation and materialism. We can’t allow the values of solidarity, frugality and adoration to be lost, although I am convinced that the person of Jesus Christ will always fascinate people. Faith will not disappear.”