MONDAY
January 17, 2000
volume 11, no. 11
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
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MOST IMPORTANT ECUMENICAL MEETING SINCE VATICAN COUNCIL II
Opening of Holy Door of St. Paul Outside the Walls
    VATICAN CITY, JAN 14 (ZENIT).- Today Cardinal Roger Etchegaray presented the details of the opening of the Holy Door in St. Paul Outside the Walls. "It will be the most characteristic event of this Jubilee," stated the president of the Central Committee for the Jubilee. The ceremony will take place on January 18, the first day of Christian Unity Week.

    The most significant characteristic of this event, the Cardinal explained, is the fact that "the Pope will not be the only one to symbolically push open the Holy Door, but will do so along with a representative of the Eastern Churches and one from the Reformed Churches."

    For Cardinal Etchegaray, ecumenism is a "crucial" challenge, "for evangelical witness in the world... The ecumenical door can only be crossed on one's knees, because only prayer can open and support the way toward visible unity in the Church."

    Bishop Crescenzio Sepe, secretary of the Vatican Committee for the Jubilee, disclosed that the meeting at St. Paul Outside-the-Walls "will be the greatest concentration of Christian Churches since the one that took place during the Vatican II Ecumenical Council." There will be 22 delegations of Christian Churches participating in the opening of the Holy Door, in addition to the World Council of Churches, which embraces 337 Churches, from over 100 countries throughout the world and the greater part of Christian traditions.

    The choice of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, is not accidental. On January 25, 1959, John XXIII convoked Vatican Council II in this Basilica, as Bishop Piero Marini, Pontifical Master of Ceremonies, recalled in his meeting with the international press.

    The only significant absence will be that of the World Reformed Alliance, which differs with the Church on the matter of indulgences. But, according to German Bishop Walter Kasper, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the absence does not mean a rupture, as the Reformed Alliance itself collaborated with the Catholic Church in the preparation of a guide for the Jubilee pilgrim, as well as in other projects. "We must respect the convictions and difficulties of our brothers and they must respect ours; respect is the basis of ecumenism," Bishop Kasper said.

    The ecumenical meeting includes a meditation on Biblical readings, as well as passages from Protestant and Orthodox authors, among whom is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed by the Nazis in 1945.

    Although the meeting is for prayer, at the end, all the representatives of the different Churches will be invited by John Paul II to a festive dinner. Bishop Kasper said that over the last few months progress has been made at the heart of the different Christian Churches in reflecting on the Petrine primacy, in other words, on the Pope's role as Peter's successor, which at times has been an element of division among the Christian denominations. Bishop Kasper clarified that, following the proposal made by John Paul II in the encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" on ecumenism, "a dialogue began with Lutherans and Anglicans. There have been several congresses and conferences, including at the academic level, in which the matter is being studied."

    In fact, the German Bishop added, "the January 18 ceremony is a new form of ecumenical exercise of the Pope's authority."

    Cardinal Etchegaray recalled that the Pope is "obstinately and realistically determined" to pursue ecumenism, "one of the strongest demands of the Jubilee." Indeed, this meeting could be the moment to prepare for the much desired pan-Christian meeting that the Holy Father mentions in "Tertio Millennio Adveniente."

    Two additional very important Jubilee ecumenical meetings were confirmed during the press conference: a commemoration in the Colosseum of the witnesses to the faith in this century (on May 7) and an ecumenical prayer vigil of prayer at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, in keeping with the intentions of Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople (on August 5). ZE00011405

          

January 17, 2000
volume 11, no. 11
NEWS & VIEWS

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