This is the text of the Pope’s words to delegates from the Baptist World Alliance at a recent audience in the Papal apartments in advance of the latest round of Baptist-Catholic conversations (Paul Fiddes, among others, is on the BWA team – lucky sod!). See here for an account of the conversations. I am sure that they did not meet in front of the Raphaels (too many tourists interrupting) but any excuse to show great pictures.
I offer a cordial welcome to you, the members of the joint international
commission sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance and the Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity. I am pleased that you have chosen as the site of
your meeting this city of Rome, where the Apostles Peter and Paul proclaimed the
Gospel and crowned their witness to the Risen Lord by the shedding of their
blood. It is my hope that your conversations will bear abundant fruit for the
progress of dialogue and the increase of understanding and cooperation between
Catholics and Baptists.
The theme which you have chosen for this phase of contacts – The Word of
God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia – offers
a promising context for the examination of such historically controverted issues
as the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, the understanding of
Baptism and the sacraments, the place of Mary in the communion of the Church,
and the nature of oversight and primacy in the Church’s ministerial structure.
If our hope for reconciliation and greater fellowship between Baptists and
Catholics is to be realized, issues such as these need to be faced together, in
a spirit of openness, mutual respect and fidelity to the liberating truth and
saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As believers in Christ, we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God
and humanity (1 Tim 2:5), our Saviour, our Redeemer. He is the
cornerstone (Eph 2:21; 1 Pet 2:4-8); and the head of the body,
which is the Church (Col 1:18). In this Advent season, we look to his
coming with prayerful expectation. Today, as ever, the world needs our common
witness to Christ and to the hope brought by the Gospel. Obedience to the Lord’s
will should constantly spur us, then, to strive for that unity so movingly
expressed in his priestly prayer: "that they may all be one… so that the
world may believe" (Jn 17:21). For the lack of unity between
Christians "openly contradicts the will of Christ, provides a stumbling
block to the world, and harms the most holy cause of proclaiming the good news
to every creature" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1).
Dear friends, I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my
prayers for the important work which you have undertaken. Upon your
conversations, and upon each of you and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the
Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, understanding, strength and peace.