Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI leaves a legacy of ecumenical dialogue

Expressing the profound sadness of the World Council of Churches (WCC) following the announcement by the Holy See of the death of His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI today, the WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca stated:

“On behalf of the World Council of Churches, I express our deepest condolences on the passing of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He was the first pope to have come from a country, Germany, with a roughly equal balance between Protestants and Catholics, and one that had been at the very centre of the 16th century Reformation.”

Benedict was also the first pope to have belonged to a committee of the World Council of Churches, as one of the Catholic members of its Faith and Order Commission.

Within a short time of Benedict becoming pope, longstanding grievances that had prevented meetings of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue commission were swept aside.

By 2007, the commission had drawn up the “Ravenna Declaration” as a first step towards overcoming the thousand-year disagreement on the role of the papacy.

Intriguingly, several key individuals in this process had all been members of the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission.

“He demonstrated courage as much in his leadership, his writings, and his pronouncements,” said Sauca.

Sauca added: “In the one ecumenical movement he constantly affirmed as irreversible the deep involvement of the Roman Catholic Church in ecumenism, especially in responding to the challenging issues for the church in the world.”

The condolences were shared by WCC central committee moderator Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, who emphasized:

“I share my heartfelt condolences about the death of Pope Emeritus Benedikt XVI with Pope Francis and his whole church. When I followed his life, I have often thought of the words that he spoke on his 85th birthday on 16 April 2012 in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican. Together with a Bavarian delegation, I had the privilege to participate in this small and very personal service.”

At that time, Pope Emeritus Benedikt XVI stated: “I am now facing the last chapter of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is Risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than any evil in this world.”

Bedford-Strohm reflected on those words: “He probably didn’t dare to think that he would live on another full ten more years. I am, however, sure that he now experiences the truth of these words spoken then.”

WCC expresses respect for Pope Benedict as he resigns (WCC news release 11 February 2013)

Pope Benedict’s contributions to Christian unity (WCC news release 27 February 2013)

Pope Benedict and WCC leader reaffirm common goals for visible church unity (WCC news release 4 December 2010)

WCC general secretary confident about Christian unity progress (WCC news release 25 January 2008)

Benedict XVI: Kobia prays for renewed commitment to ecumenical openess and a dialogue of conversion (WCC news release 20 April 2005)

Joseph Ratzinger’s section report at the Louvain WCC Faith and Order commission 1971

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