Address of World Alliance of Reformed Churches to the Pope
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered Saturday by the Reverend Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, during an audience with Benedict XVI.
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In this Season of Epiphany we greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, who is revealed as Lord and savior of the world. We extend a special word of congratulations to you in this first year of your papal ministry and assure you of the prayers of Reformed Christians all over the world that God will richly bless your ministry.
We come representing the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the global fellowship of 215 churches of Reformed, Congregational, Waldensian and Presbyterian traditions composed of some 75 million Christians from all parts of our world. We are churches shaped by the Protestant Reformation and its values but also deeply committed to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of which both of our communities are a part.
We are extremely grateful for the three phases of the Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogue that have been completed and have born real fruit in our common understanding of the presence of Christ and the nature of the church and in our common witness to the Kingdom of God. We are eager to begin the next stage of efforts to move closer together in common faith and witness and look forward to exploring this possibility with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity while we are here in Rome. As Reformed Christians, we will also soon be commemorating the 500th anniversary of the founding of our movement and are eager to find ways to approach these events and our learning from them ecumenically with our sisters and brothers from the Catholic Church.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches has recently concluded its 24th General Council, the every-seven-year gathering of leaders from Reformed Churches all over the world this one held in Accra, Ghana in August of 2004. The theme of that Council was Jesus' promise in John 10:10 that he has come so that all "may have life, and have it in fullness." The exploration of that theme and the witness of our growing churches in Africa and other parts of the South led us to a common core commitment to justice in the economy and the earth as our central calling as Reformed Churches in this period of history.
We see this commitment not simply as a matter of social justice but rather as a concern that is central to the very integrity of our Christian faith. We are eager during our visit here at the Vatican 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.
Finally, we come as pilgrims in the cause of Christian unity. At the core of our tradition is the understanding that to be Reformed is to be faithful to Jesus' high priestly prayer "that they might all be one ... that the world might believe" (John 17:21). We are grateful for new ecumenical breakthroughs between Protestants and Catholics.
In talking with the moderator of the Waldensian Church here in Italy, who is part of our delegation, I was pleased to learn of positive new ecumenical developments between Protestants and Catholics around honoring the Bible and interconfessional marriages and of new structures of ecumenical cooperation at the grass-roots levels -- developments that are paralleled in the U.S.A. where I live, and in many parts of the world. However, there is still much to be done to move beyond our past condemnations of one another, to truly respect one another as parts of the one body of Jesus Christ, serve God together without worrying about inhibitions in our nations, and to come together at the table of our Lord. We are eager to be partners with you in this important ministry of Christian unity.
In many ways, historians will likely look back on the second millennium of Christian history as the millennium of the division of the Christian Church. May we together, in the power of the Holy Spirit, commit our efforts to make the third millennium the era of the reuniting of the broken body of Christ. May God bless you and may God bless our common efforts to be pilgrims together for the unity which Christ intends for the Church and the world!