For once I was too quick to post rather than too slow. I have just found a news item from the Vatican which reports Pope Benedict’s address to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
His words are consistent with what he has said or hinted at in the past. He states clearly that the most urgent and intense ecumenical dialogue is with the Orthodox churches, with whom the Catholic Church has the “closest intimacy”. Nevertheless no ecumenical dialogue must ever relapse into a search for and satisfaction with compromise, that is, into “political categories, in which negotiating ability or greater capacity to reach compromise come into play, and in which the participants hope that, as good mediators, after a certain period they will reach an agreement acceptable to everyone”.
Then the Holy Father articulates the “dual dynamic” of ecumenical activity. “On the one hand it means searching dedicatedly, passionately and tenaciously for all the unity in truth”, for without common acceptance of the one truth there can be no unity; and on the other hand we must realise that all ecumenical activity is subject to the will of God, for “we do not know the time that the unity of all Christ’s disciples will be achieved, and we cannot know it because we do not ‘make’ unity, God ‘makes’ it; it comes from on high…” In other words our part is to work for unity in truth while accepting that this can only come about by God’s power, in God’s good time.
There is in ecumenical endeavour the same delicate balance that marks all Christian activity, between “acting and suffering, activity and patience, fatigue and joy”. Ecumenism is one with all Christian activity on earth, which will never bear fruit unless it is one with the vine and founded on prayer. Thus, says the Holy father, “the unity of Christians is and remains prayer, it dwells in prayer”. It is of course the prayer that issues forth in charity and truth.