VATICAN CITY, 27 JAN 2012 (VIS AC/ VIS 20120127 (710))
All this, Benedict XVI explained, is closely associated with the question of Christian unity, and he turned to consider certain doctrinal issues related to the Church's ecumenical journey. "Today", he said, "we see the many good fruits that have emerged from ecumenical dialogue. Yet we must also recognize that the risks of indifference and of false Irenicism [peaceful or conciliatory means in dealing with Church matters, particularly in the field of Christian unity, as distinct from polemics or controversy. It does not imply a dilution or diminution of the truth in order to secure a solution to thorny problems (New Catholic Encyclopedia)], 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. Without faith the entire ecumenical movement would be reduced to a kind of 'social contract' to which we adhere out of shared interests. The logic of Vatican Council II was quite different", holding that "the sincere search for the full unity of all Christians is a dynamic process animated by the Word of God".
The Holy Father went on to highlight a "crucial problem running through all ecumenical dialogue: ... the question of the structure of revelation; that is, the relationship between Holy Scripture, the living tradition of Holy Church and the ministry of the successors of the Apostles as witness of the true faith. It is vital to discern between Tradition and traditions", he said. One important step in this direction has been the recent implementation of measures concerning groups of Anglican faithful who wish to enter into communion with the Catholic Church while maintaining their own traditions. "There exists, in fact, a spiritual richness in the carious Christian confessions, which is an expression of the one faith and a gift to be shared", the Pope said.
The methodology followed in the various forms of ecumenical dialogue must also reflect the priority of the faith. "Even controversial issues must be faced courageously, while always maintaining a spirit of fraternity and mutual respect. Moreover, it is important to offer a correct interpretation of that 'hierarchy of truths' in Catholic doctrine, as defined in the Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio'".
On the subject of the documents that have emerged from various ecumenical dialogues, the Pope explained that "they are the important, though provisional, fruits of shared reflections". But he also pointed out that "they must be given their correct status as contributions presented to the competent authorities of the Church, which alone is called to pass definitive judgement on them".
Benedict XVI also referred to the moral issue, saying: "In our dialogues we cannot overlook the great moral questions about human life, the family, sexuality, bioethics, freedom, justice and peace. It is important to speak on these issues with a single voice, drawing on the fundamentals contained in Scripture and in living tradition. ... By defending the fundamental values of the great tradition of the Church, we defend man and we defend the creation".
In conclusion, the Holy Father reaffirmed that unity is "a means towards, almost a precondition for, the increasingly credible announcement of the faith to people who do not yet know the Savior".