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Intervention of Mons. Kurt KOCH, Archbishop-Bishop Emeritus of Basel, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (VATICAN CITY)



Communion and witness: appearing in the title for the Synod of Bishops are two key concepts of Christian ecumenism, making reference to two anniversaries celebrated this year.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, which our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, visited in September, the first World Mission Conference took place 100 years ago. Its primary purpose was to become aware of a scandal, to remedy: the inherent scandal in the fact that many Churches and Christian communities competed in their mission, thereby harming the credibility of the announcement of the Gospel of Jesus, especially in the most distant continents. From that moment, ecumenism and mission became twin sisters, called to rely on each other. This pair also correspond to the will of Jesus, who prayed for unity “so that the world may believe it was you who sent me” (Jn 17:21). In Jesus’ eyes, authentic ecumenical unity is not an end in itself , but rather is placed at the service of the credible announcement of the one Gospel of Jesus Christ in today’s world. Our witness must therefore have an ecumenical tone, so that its melody is not discordant but musical. And this tone must be perceptible every day, a renewed growth of which is essential, or rather in the one faith, that operates in love and through love.
Fifty years ago the Secretariat was established, today the Pontifical Council, for the Promotion of Unity of Christians. Still now it has a duty to serve an ecumenical objective of visible unity within the faith, in the sacraments and in the ecclesial ministry. Here the second key concept, comes to the fore, that is communion, rooted in the Trinitarian mystery of God, as John emphasized in his first letter with these significant words: “We are declaring to you what we have seen and heard, so that you too may share our life. Our life is shared with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I Jn 1:3). The decisive point of departure of every communion is the meeting with Jesus Christ as Son of God incarnate. From this meeting springs the communion between human beings, founded on the communion with the Triune God. The ecclesial communion is therefore based on a Trinitarian communion: the Church is an icon of the Trinity.

From what has already been said emerges the link between two realities, between communion and witness: our witness has as its content the mystery of God, that is revealed to us in his Logos just as He is and lives within himself. But this witness may only be credible in today’s world if the life of communion and the passionate pursuit of a broader communion become the same visible icons of the divine mystery or, as Paul says, “letters of recommendation”: “You yourselves are our letter, written in our hearts, that everyone can read and understand” (2 Cor 3:2). Ecumenism may therefore be understood as a process in which ecclesial life grows towards communion: that means that the communion of life of the true Church becomes a concrete witness and radiates in a fuller ecumenical communion.
At this Synod communion and witness also demand an ecumenical declination, which we expect most of all from the Oriental Churches in the Middle East. In fact they are called in a particular way to breathe with two lungs. Hence I wish to conclude with this invitation full of hope: help us all and the universal Church to breathe like this, ecumenically!

[00178-02.03] [IN121] [Original text: Italian]




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