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
"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
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.
Contact: NCC News, Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252, firstname.lastname@example.org