Tag Archives: spiritual ecumenism

Ecumenism is really a thirst for God

The document Unitatis Redintegratio (21 Nov. 1964) of the Second Vatican Council stresses spiritual ecumenism. Sometimes we overlook this aspect. But we can’t but focus on what is the soul of the ecumenical movement; theologians and church leaders have a lot of work to do on this point; I recall that  the saints have kept their eyes on this method, and so we as members of the Body of Christ have to keep focused on daily conversion, a daily turn toward the Lord.

With two noteworthy ecumenical monastic communities this week, Taize and Bose, the Pope spoke of three conditions at the center for Christian unity:

1. there’s no unity without conversion of heart, which includes forgiving and asking for forgiveness.

2. there is no unity without prayer and therefore men and women religious who pray for unity are like ‘an invisible monastery’ bringing together Christians of different denominations from different countries around the world.

3.  there is no unity without holiness of daily life. so the more we put our search for unity into practise in our relations with others, the more we will be modelling our lives on the message of the Gospel.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which concludes today (the feast of the Conversion of St Paul) meditated on the theme, “Give me a drink,” from the narrative of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus.

In his talk with the monastic communities whose primary work is Christian Unity, His Holiness spoke of the fact that we see in the Savior a “desire for unity” among the disciples, and that same thirst continues today especially with the divisions of the Christian community. The thirst of the Samaritan woman –and therefore each one of us– is a “thirst not only material for water, but above all our thirst for a full life, free from the slavery of evil and death.”

Francis calls us to pray about this fact: “Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises because it is he who gives to the Holy Spirit, the ‘living water’ that quenches our restless hearts, hungry for life, love, freedom, peace: thirsty for God.”

Work for the good of every person on earth: fight spiritual and material poverty, Pope exhorts

Speaking in French today, Pope Francis gave his talk in Italian outlined to the world’s diplomats the mission of his pontificate: building peace AND constructing bridges of dialogue,  combatting spiritual AND material poverty. This is part 2 of his “pontifical program of ministry.” The Pontiff met the more than 180 accredited diplomats in Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican.

English: world map of the Vatican foreign rela...

World map of the Vatican foreign relations; dark green: diplomatic relations, light green: other relations, gray: no official relations (credit: Wikipedia)

Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.

Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.

As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism,” which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.

One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

pontiff with dips.jpg

In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.

Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment. The Pope said:

Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavor. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!

Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu: Apostle for Spiritual Ecumenism

Thumbnail image for Bl Maria Gabriella Sagheddu.jpgLord God, eternal Shepherd, You inspired the blessed virgin, Maria Gabriella, generously to offer up her life for the sake of Christian unity. At her intercession, hasten, we pray, the coming of the day when, gathered around the table of Your word and of Your Bread from heaven, all who believe in Christ may sing Your praises with a single heart, a single voice.

Blessed Maria Gabriella, Sardinian by birth in 1914, she died a Trappistine nun in 1939 at Grottaferrata, having entered the monastery four years earlier. Taking up the invitation to work for spiritual ecumenism among Christians from Father Paul Couturier who stressed that all Christians must learn to pray together for unity in union with Jesus’ own prayer for the same (Jn 17). Couturier advocated a spiritual unity founded on common prayer, charity, friendship, mutual forgiveness and humility which precedes doctrinal and hierarchical unity.

Father Couturier’s work found a natural habitat in the monastic life which then became fruitful among the wider church (he called the latter the invisible monastery). As a side note, Couturier was greatly influenced by the his work in Lyon, France and by Dom Lambert Beaudoin and the monks of the Belgian abbey of Amay-sur-Meuse (now at Chevetogne).

Blessed Maria Gabriella’s offering of self in 1938 for the spiritual ecumenism made known by Father Paul Couturier was a renewal of the same offering made on the day of her monastic profession of vows: not only to give her early life for Christian unity also to die for unity. This self-gift was closely connected to the notion that the profession of monastic vows is not isolated from the Church universal but deeply at the center of it because of the desire to totally give oneself to God. It is THE reversal of the sin of disunity that is based on ego and not on personal conversion.

Pope John Paul II beatified her on January 25, 1983. Blessed Maria Gabriella is buried at the Trappistine abbey of Our Lady of Saint Joseph at Vitorchiano (near to Viterbo) where her original community moved. She is known as the Apostle for Spiritual Ecumenism.

I recommend to you Sister Martha Driscoll, OCSO’s A Silent Herald of Unity: The Life of Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu (Cistercian Publications, 1990).

Spiritual Ecumenism and dialogue, Pope Benedict addresses the ELCA

Keeping up with Pope Benedict can be a difficult task, even for the strong; the pope does so much work in given week that most people would wilt. However, because he has such an excellent staff, much is possible. Key to understanding Benedict’s ecumenical work is his openess to collaborating with the Spirit and with others Chrisians for full visible communion desired by Christ and the Church, particularly since Vatican II. Additionally, his insistence on spiritual ecumenism is always noteworthy because without prayer none of ecumenical diagolue work makes a bit of sense. Plus, the pope raises the all-important matter of harvesting the fruit already done by the churches. So often we work hard on some document or event but fail to assess the fruit of the document or event to see what fruit there is and how it’s maturing. The lack of critical and honest engagement with the issues and the prudential enactment of the dialogue is fraustrating to lots of people. It is likely that many people have missed the news of of the Pope’s recent meeting with a delegation from the Evangelical Luthern Church in America (ELCA) on Wednesday, 10 February 2010, where he said (emphasis added):


“Since the beginning of my Pontificate, I have been encouraged that relations between Catholics and Lutherans have continued to grow, especially at the level of practical collaboration in the service of the Gospel. In his Encyclical Letter Ut Unuum Sint, my beloved Predecessor Pope John Paul II described our relationship as “brotherhood rediscovered” (n. 41). I deeply hope that the continuing Lutheran-Catholic dialogue both in the United States of America and at the international level will help to build upon the agreements reached so far. An important remaining task will be to harvest the results of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue that so promisingly started after the Second Vatican Council. To build on what has been achieved together since that time, a spiritual ecumenism should be grounded in ardent prayer and in conversion to Christ, the source of grace and truth. May the Lord help us to treasure what has been accomplished so far, to guard it with care, and to foster its development.


I conclude by renewing the wish expressed by my Predecessor, during whose Pontificate so much was accomplished on the road to full visible unity among Christians, when he said to a similar delegation from the Lutheran Church in America: “You are most welcome here. Let us rejoice that an encounter such as this can take place. Let us resolve to be open to the Lord so that he can use this meeting for his purposes, to bring about the unity that he desires. Thank you for the efforts you are making for full unity in faith and charity” (Address to the Bishops of the Lutheran Church in America, 26 September 1985; L’Osservatore Romano English Edition, 7 October 1985, p. 6).


Upon you and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory