Friday, September 04, 2009

Learning Eastern, Western spirituality aids Christian unity, says pope

By Catholic News ServiceVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A better understanding of Western and Eastern Christian spirituality and doctrine will aid in promoting Christian unity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Common ground in Eastern and Western spirituality "is the valuable lifeblood for a broader relationship between Catholics and Orthodox," he said.

The pope's remarks came in a written message to Catholic and Orthodox participants in an inter-Christian symposium Sept. 3-5 in Rome. The message, addressed to Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was released by the Vatican Sept. 3.

The pope said the symposium's focus this year on St. Augustine in Eastern and Western traditions was important for learning more about Christian theology and spirituality in the West and East and how they developed.

While the fourth-century saint and theologian was of fundamental importance in influencing theology and culture in the West, "the reception of his thinking by orthodox theology turned out to be rather problematic," said the pope in his written message, which was read at the symposium's opening session.

He added that a better understanding of "the doctrinal and spiritual riches that make up the East and West's Christian heritage becomes indispensable not only for enhancing their importance, but also for promoting a better, reciprocal appreciation among all Christians."

The inter-Christian symposium was sponsored by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of Rome's Antonianum University and the department of theology at Aristotle University in Salonika, Greece. The symposiums, which began in 1992, are held alternatively in Italy and Greece.

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