Pope Calls for Greater Unity between Baptists and Catholics
R o m e – Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for greater unity between Baptists and Catholics. At a private audience in Rome for the “Joint International Commission of Baptists and Catholics”, the head of the Roman-Catholic Church labelled it the Lord’s will, “that all might be one”. The commission, led by the Catholic Bishop Arthur Serratelli (Paterson/New Jersey) and the Baptist lecturer Dr. Paul Fiddes (Oxford/UK), met for the second time in a series of sessions scheduled to last until 2010. The present phase of these annual meetings is entitled: “The Word of God in the Life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition and Koinonia”. According to Catholic press releases the Pope added, that “the lack of unity among Christians clearly contradicts the will of Christ; is a stumbling block for the world and hampers the sacred concern to proclaim the Good News to all of creation.” The Pope called on commission members to jointly face the difficult questions “in a spirit of openness, mutual respect and fidelity to the liberating truth and saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. Benedict XVI also stated: “Today the world needs – as always – our joint witness for Christ and the hope that emanates from the Gospel.”
This year’s conversations dealt primarily with the matters of baptism and communion. Papers on the Baptist perspective were read by Fiddes and Prof. Tomas Mackey from Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Catholic view was presented by Dr. Susan K Wood from Marquette University in Milwaukee/Wisconsin as well as the priest and monk Jorge A. Scampini (Buenos Aires).
Tony Peck (Prague), General-Secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), also participated in the sessions. In his report to EBPS he called the conservations “friendly and constructive”. More common ground was found than expected, “though there clearly remain key areas of divergence between us”. The meetings were “valuable in promoting greater understanding between Baptists and Roman Catholics”. Some “myths we have had about one another were dispelled”.
Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the “Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity”, received the delegation and gave a special luncheon in its honour. The Baptist participants included Neville Callam, General-Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, and his predecessor, Denton Lotz (both from Falls Church near Washington/DC).
Worldwide there are more than 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. The Baptist World Alliance reports that it represents 36 million baptised members. Including family members brings that total up to roughly 105 million.