Friday, April 18, 2008

Ecumenical Service at Saint Joseph Parish, Yorkville

What's Happening Today: Friday, April 18
6:00 p.m. - Ecumenical Prayer Service - Saint Joseph Parish
NOTE: This post will be updated as more information becomes available on this topic.

Saint Joseph Parish, 404 E. 87th Street, Yorkville, was founded in 1873 to meet the needs of German immigrants. The parish grew out of a community worshiping in the chapel of Saint Joseph’s Orphanage, established on the Upper East Side.

  • 6:00 p.m. Greeting by Cardinal Edward M. Egan and Msgr. John Sullivan, administrator of Saint Joseph Parish. Inside an audience of 250 Protestant and Orthodox leaders and 50 Catholics involved in ecumenical efforts.


  • The Pope proceeds to the papal chair, in front of the altar
  • Cardinal Egan sits to his right. Already in place is Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan, vicar general for the archdiocese, to the Pope’s left
  • Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan greets the Pope
  • Opening hymn: “Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether,” text by Percy Dearmer; music by Harold Friedell
  • Prayer and Scripture reading (Ephesians 4:1-6)
  • Address: Pope Benedict XVI
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Final blessing and hymn: “Now Thank We All Our God,” music by Johann Crüger


  • Catholic News Service:
    Using unusually strong words for an ecumenical prayer service, Pope Benedict XVI said the witness of Christians in the world is weakened not only by their divisions, but also by some communities turning their backs on Christian tradition.

    "Communion with the church in every age," he said, is needed particularly "at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel."

    The pope met April 18 with about 250 representatives of U.S. ecumenical organizations and a dozen Christian churches and denominations for evening prayer at St. Joseph's Church in New York.

    He began by praising the ecumenical commitment of U.S. Christians and acknowledging that the agreements found in their theological dialogues have contributed to the theological agreements later forged by the Vatican and its official dialogue partners.

    But Pope Benedict also focused on ways the Christian obligation to share the good news of the Gospel suffers in the modern world.

    "Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself," he said.

    But another, growing problem lies in the fact that "fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called 'prophetic actions' that are based" on a reading of Christianity "not always consonant" with that found in the Bible and in Christian tradition.

    Here is the full text of Benedict's address at the "Ecumenical Encounter", Church of St. Joseph (Yorkville, NY) April 18, 2008. He doesn't mince any words, does he?

    ... My dear friends, the power of the kerygma has lost none of its internal dynamism. Yet we must ask ourselves whether its full force has not been attenuated by a relativistic approach to Christian doctrine similar to that found in secular ideologies, which, in alleging that science alone is "objective", relegate religion entirely to the subjective sphere of individual feeling. Scientific discoveries, and their application through human ingenuity, undoubtedly offer new possibilities for the betterment of humankind. This does not mean, however, that the "knowable" is limited to the empirically verifiable, nor religion restricted to the shifting realm of "personal experience".

    For Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasize objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living.

    Even within the ecumenical movement, Christians may be reluctant to assert the role of doctrine for fear that it would only exacerbate rather than heal the wounds of division. Yet a clear, convincing testimony to the salvation wrought for us in Christ Jesus has to be based upon the notion of normative apostolic teaching: a teaching which indeed underlies the inspired word of God and sustains the sacramental life of Christians today.

    Only by "holding fast" to sound teaching (2 Thess 2:15; cf. Rev 2:12-29) will we be able to respond to the challenges that confront us in an evolving world. Only in this way will we give unambiguous testimony to the truth of the Gospel and its moral teaching. This is the message which the world is waiting to hear from us. Like the early Christians, we have a responsibility to give transparent witness to the "reasons for our hope", so that the eyes of all men and women of goodwill may be opened to see that God has shown us his face (cf. 2 Cor 3:12-18) and granted us access to his divine life through Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope! God has revealed his love for all peoples through the mystery of his Son's passion and death, and has called us to proclaim that he is indeed risen, has taken his place at the right hand of the Father, and "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead" (Nicene Creed).

    May the word of God we have heard this evening inflame our hearts with hope on the path to unity (cf. Lk 24:32). May this prayer service exemplify the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 8); for without it, ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul. Let us give thanks to Almighty God for the progress that has been made through the work of his Spirit, as we acknowledge with gratitude the personal sacrifices made by so many present and by those who have gone before us.

    By following in their footsteps, and by placing our trust in God alone, I am confident that - to borrow the words of Father Paul Wattson - we will achieve the "oneness of hope, oneness of faith, and oneness of love" that alone will convince the world that Jesus Christ is the one sent by the Father for the salvation of all.