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National Council of Churches looks to Benedict
For Continued Commitment to Christian Unity

NEW YORK, April 21 -- The National Council of Churches has expressed appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that Christian unity will be a central goal of his pontificate.

"We pray that in the years of Benedict's papacy, we in the United States will find deeper and richer ways to live out our common commitment to Christ's own prayer that we 'may all be one,'" said Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr. (left), president of the NCC.

The NCC is composed of 36 Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant and historic African American communions representing 45 million people in the U.S.  Bishop Hoyt is the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church bishop of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Hoyt also praised Benedict as a scholarly theologian whose close relationship with the late Pope John Paul II encourages the view that "he will follow in the broad lines of the most recent pontificate, taking vigorous leadership in applying the teachings of the Second Vatican Council in our changing world."

The new pope's decision to take the name Benedict suggests an affinity with the last pope of that name, Benedict XV (1914-1922), Hoyt said. Benedict XV opposed war and "supported research in the ancient theological heritage of the Eastern Churches and had a notable reputation for a positive relationship with the Muslim-majority countries of the Eastern Mediterranean."

During the new pontificate, "we anticipate rich and fruitful partnerships of shared commitment to the urgent need for peace and care for those most in need," Hoyt said.

The full text of the statement follows:

The member communions of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, which come from the Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant traditions, including the Historic Black and Peace traditions, rejoice with the Christians of the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches in the gift of their new pope, Benedict XVI. We anticipate that, having worked for so many years as a close colleague of Pope John Paul II, the new pope will follow in the broad lines of the most recent pontificate, taking vigorous leadership in applying the teachings of the Second Vatican Council in our changing world. As a scholar himself, we expect in him a deep commitment to the intellectual heritage of the Church.

The new pontiff's choice of the name Benedict XVI is suggestive of a few special emphases in the present pontificate. In taking the name of Benedict, we look, among other places, to the heritage of Benedict XV for possible indicators of the present pope's intentions and hopes.

Pope Benedict XV was a major figure of the public world, calling for and working for peace during the very troubled years of World War I. He was a strong leader in offering aid and nurture to those in material need because of armed conflict. Benedict XV was a patron of missions, supported research in the ancient theological heritage of the Eastern Churches and had a notable reputation for a positive relationship with the Muslim-majority countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. He also gave encouragement to ecumenism, finding what was then a new endeavor to be a worthy one, despite his conviction that, at that time, the Catholic Church could not participate. It is hard to imagine how the Faith and Order movement, for instance, could have matured as it has without the spiritual support it received from such insightful leaders as Pope Benedict XV.

Taking hints from the new pontiff's own work in the Church as theologian and his choice of his new name, Benedict XVI, we anticipate rich and fruitful partnerships of shared commitment to the urgent need for peace and care for those most in need. We look to a continued commitment to ecumenical research and careful, patient theological inquiry into the faith proclaimed in the ancient creeds of the Church and attested to by the many Christian communities that do not use the words of the ancient Councils but articulate this same faith in diverse ways. We look to shared insights as Christians seek together to understand the implications of that faith for the Church today.

We pray that in the years of Benedict XVI's papacy, we in the United States will find deeper and richer ways to live out our common commitment to Christ's own prayer that we "may all be one" (John 17:21). Indeed, we note with great appreciation His Holiness' statement that a central goal of his papacy will be the unity of all Christians. 

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Contact: NCC News, Philip E.  Jenks, 212-870-2252, pjenks@ncccusa.org
 


 

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