Many of you, I hope, have been reading the various texts from the Pope’s visit to Bavaria. I was struck by this paragraph from his address at the Ecumenical Vespers service today in Regensburg. The “rediscovery” of which the Holy Father hopes clearly shows one particular way in which Catholics and Protestants might become blessings for one another. The italics are mine:
I also extend warm greetings to our friends of the various traditions stemming from the Reformation. Here too many memories arise in my heart: memories of friends in the Jäger-Stählin circle, who have already passed away, and these memories are mixed with gratitude for our present meetings. Obviously, I think in particular of the demanding efforts to reach a consensus on justification. I recall all the stages of that process up, to the memorable meeting with the late Bishop Hanselmann here in Regensburg – a meeting that contributed decisively to the achievement of the conclusion. I am pleased to see that in the meantime the World Methodist Council has adhered to the Declaration. The agreement on justification remains an important task, one not yet fully complete: in theology justification is an essential theme, but in the life of the faithful today – it seems to me – it is only dimly present. Because of the dramatic events of our time, the theme of mutual forgiveness is felt with increased urgency, yet there is little perception of our fundamental need of God’s forgiveness, of our justification by him. Our modern consciousness in general is no longer aware of the fact that we stand as debtors before God and that sin is a reality which can be overcome only by God’s initiative. Behind this weakening of the theme of justification and of the forgiveness of sins is ultimately a weakening of our relation with God. In this sense, our first task will perhaps be to rediscover in a new way the living God present in our lives.