April 20, 2005
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Methodist leaders are hopeful that the new Roman Catholic pope,
Benedict XVI, will support efforts toward Christian unity.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected April 19 as the 265th pope to
lead the billion-member Roman Catholic Church. Since 1981, he had served
as second-in-command to Pope John Paul II, who died April
Rev. Geoffrey Wainwright, who has been chairman of the dialogue between
the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church since 1986,
called the new pope “a first-rate theologian, with a subtle and
penetrating mind” and said he was delighted by his election.
have found it very easy to enter into technical and friendly
conversation with Cardinal Ratzinger during my meetings with him over
the years, when I have kept him up to date on our international
Methodist-Catholic dialogue,” Wainwright added. “He is committed to the
cause of Christian unity in the truth of the Gospel.
he holds to the Christian faith in a classic form. Pastorally, he
showed great grace and sensitivity during his conduct of the funeral
Mass for Pope John Paul the Second and in his homily on that occasion.”
Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission
on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, said he believes the
selection of Ratzinger is an indication of a church “in transition.”
prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Ratzinger
“had enormous impact upon the theological life of the church” and
helped shaped its response to liberation theology in Latin American and
theological issues involving Catholics in Africa and the United States,
some sectors of Latin America, his selection is viewed with
disappointment because there is a sense that he will not be as committed
to social justice as Pope John Paul II,” Pickens told United Methodist
said he hopes the new pope will continue John Paul II’s commitment to
ecumenical dialogue and interfaith cooperation and further efforts for
peace and liberation.
hope that he will help the church deal with the AIDS crisis in Africa,”
Pickens added. “Furthermore it is my hope that the role and impact of
the developing world continues to grow in its significant witness within
the Catholic Church.”
between the United Methodist and Roman Catholic churches should
continue to develop through bilateral dialogue, he said.
Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist pastor from Kenya and chief executive of
the World Council of Churches, sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI,
encouraging him “to initiate new ways of cooperation” between Catholics
and the World Council.
that the new pope’s election coincides with the 40th anniversary of the
Second Vatican Council, Kobia asked him to “constitute a time for the
Roman Catholic Church to apply, in a renewed commitment, the teachings
and the spirit of ecumenical openness exemplified in the Second Vatican
Council to the life of her faithful and of the whole church.”
expressed hope that the pope would be “guided by the ecclesiological
vision of the Second Vatican Council … a vision that has prompted,
encouraged and strengthened the commitment of the Roman Catholic
faithful to the journey towards encountering their sisters and brothers
in Christ and experiencing the real, though imperfect, communion with
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.