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Monday, June 22, 2015

To the Waldensian Church: God is not resigned to human sin

Vatican City, 22 June 2015 (VIS) – At 9 a.m. today the Holy Father visited the Waldensian Temple where he was received by the pastor Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Mass, the president of the Consistory of the Evangelical Waldensian Church of Turin, Sergio Velluto, and the pastor Paolo Ribet, titular of the Evangelical Waldensian Church of Turin. The moderator of the Evangelical Waldensian Church of Uruguay, pastor Oscar Oudri, was also present. The welcome reminded the Pope “of the meetings with friends in the Waldensian Evangelical Church of Rio de la Plata, where I could appreciate the spirituality and faith and learn many good things”.

“One of the main fruits that the ecumenical movement has enabled us to gather in recent years is the rediscovery of the fraternity that unites all those who believe in Jesus Christ and have been baptised in His name”, remarked Francis. “This bond is not based simply on human criteria, such as the radical sharing of the experience on which Christian life is based: the encounter with God's love that is revealed to us in Jesus Christ and the transforming action of the Holy Spirit that helps us on our path in life. The rediscovery of this fraternity enables us to grasp that deep bond that already unites us, despite our differences”.

“Unity, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, does not mean uniformity”, he emphasised. “Brothers, effectively, are united by a common origin, but they are not identical to each other. This is clear in the New Testament where, despite calling brothers all those who share the same faith in Jesus Christ, it can be intuited that not all Christian communities had the same style or an identical internal organisation … and even in the announcement of the Gospel itself there is diversity and at times clashes. Unfortunately, brothers have not and continue not to accept their differences, and end up fighting against each other. Reflecting on the history of our relationship, we cannot but feel sad faced with the conflicts and violence committed in the name of our faith, and I ask the Lord to grant us the grace of acknowledging ourselves as sinners and of forgiving each other. It is God's initiative, that never resigns to man's sin, that opens up new forms of living this fraternity, and from this we cannot escape. I ask forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church for unchristian, even inhuman gestures and behaviour towards you. In the name of Jesus Christ, forgive us”.

The Pope expressed his profound joy at noting that the relations between Catholics and Waldensians are now increasingly based on mutual respect and fraternal charity, and that there have been and are many opportunities to strengthen them, for example “collaboration for the publication in Italian of an interconfessional translation of the Bible, pastoral agreements for the celebration of marriage and, more recently, the draft of a joint appeal opposing violence towards women”. Likewise, this year at Easter the Waldensian Church in the Italian city of Pinerolo offered the Catholic Church the wine for the celebration of Holy Saturday, and the Catholic Church responded by offering the Waldensians the bread for the Holy Supper on Easter Sunday. “It is a gesture between the two Churches that goes far beyond the pure and simple courtesy”, noted Francis. “It is a gesture that anticipates, in some way, the unity of the Eucharistic Mass that we all hope for”.

“Inspired by these steps, we are called to continue to walk together”, emphasised the Pope at the end of his discourse. “One area that offers ample opportunities for collaboration between Waldensians and Catholics is evangelisation. Aware that the Lord has gone before us and precedes us in love, let us go together towards the men and women of today, who at times seem so distracted and indifferent, to transmit to them the heart of the Gospel, or rather 'the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ Who died and rose from the dead'. Another sector in which we can work increasingly united is that of the service to suffering humanity: to the poor, the sick, migrants. … The differences that continue to exist between Catholics and Waldensians on important anthropological and ethical questions do not prevent us from finding forms of cooperation in these and other fields. If we walk together, the Lord will help us to live this communion that precedes any disagreement”.

The meeting at the Waldensian Temple ended with the Lord's Prayer, recited together. The Pope then returned to the archbishop's residence to meet with a number of his relatives – six direct relatives with their families, a total of thirty people for whom he celebrated Holy Mass and with whom he lunched.

Before his return to Rome at 5.30 p.m., the Pope greeted the members of the Committee for the Exposition of the Shroud and the organisers of his visit to Turin, his home town, which Cardinal Bergoglio used to visit every time he travelled to Italy.

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