Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fr. James Massa: "Pope's US visit not just for Catholics"

Zenit News Service has a lengthy interview with Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S episcopal conference's Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, regarding Benedict's agenda concerning ecumenical and interreligious affairs.

According to Fr. Massa, at the heart of which is his conviction that "there will be no peace in the world until there is peace among the religions. That is why he comes to the table of dialogue here in the U.S. and in Rome, with hope and abiding conviction.:

"At the time of Vatican II, he was a theological advisor to the German bishops who were proposing new doctrinal formulations that took account of developments in Orthodox and Protestant theology," Father Massa said. "Later on, he was a contributor to the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. As cardinal prefect in Rome, he nearly single-handedly saved the historic Joint Declaration on Justification [in] 1999, between the Lutheran World Federation and the Holy See, through a last minute intervention in a meeting at his brother's house in Germany.

"Like the four Popes that preceded him, Benedict XVI views the work of promoting Christian unity to be an essential component of the Church's mission.

"The Holy Father also honors the unique relationship that the Church maintains with the Jewish people, who are the first to be in covenant with God.

"Interreligious dialogue, especially with Islam, is key to Benedict XVI's agenda for the work of promoting peace and human rights throughout the world."

On the Muslim reaction to Pope Benedict's now-famous Regensburg Address, Fr. Massa rightly points out the central role of the media in fanning the flames of controversy:
The press obviously has a crucial role to play in interpreting these developments for a global audience," the priest affirmed. "It was unfortunate that portions of the European press created the headline out of the opening paragraphs of the Regensburg address, which was in its totality a brilliant and respectful challenge to all people of religious conviction to demonstrate that reason has nothing to fear from faith and that faith must always welcome the purifying encounter with reason.

"Together, Muslims and Catholics face a common adversary in the form of an aggressive secularism that denies transcendent moral principles that undergird the rule of law and respect for human dignity."

In January, Benedict invited Muslim representatives to dialogue with him at the Vatican, a response to "A Common Word" -- an "open letter" by 138 Muslim intellectuals to the Pope and other Christian leaders.

Benedict also faces criticism as a consequence of his motu proprio liberalizing the use of the 1962 Missal, which includes a Good Friday intercessory prayer for the salvation of the Jews.

In February 2008 he had revised the prayer to remove some elements deemed offensive, but as John Allen Jr. noted, his "attempt to meet his critics half-way appears to have left almost no one fully satisfied." (We invite you to see our coverage: " Pope Benedict, The Jews and the "Good Friday Prayer"" @ The Benedict Blog for further details & analysis).

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