Pope Benedict XVI. celebrated an ecumenical evening prayer with representatives of all Christian churches in Great Britain. The service, led by Anglican Primate Rowan Williams, gathered hundreds of dignitaries at London's Westminster Abbey on Friday evening. In his homily, Benedict XVI called. urged Christians to bear witness to their hope in an increasingly indifferent or even hostile environment.
Before the ceremony, the German pope had stopped at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Gothic cathedral and offered a prayer for peace. In doing so, he commemorated the Battle of Britain in which Hitler's air force tried to force England's surrender 70 years ago. He then welcomed to the sacristy high representatives of various denominations.
During the service, Benedict XVI recalled the beginning of the ecumenical. recalled the start of the ecumenical movement 100 years ago with the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. Since then, he said, church unity has made "remarkable progress". However, much remains to be done, the pope stressed.
Fidelity to the Word of God demands of Christians an obedience that must be free from "intellectual conformism and comfortable pandering to the spirit of the times," Benedict XVI said. At the same time, he recalled his role as bishop of Rome and successor to the apostle Peter, charged with "caring in a special way for the unity of Christ's flock".
Archbishop Williams reiterated the "special bond" between the two churches. He praised the Pope's encyclicals for addressing the pressing ies of modern times. Williams stressed that Christians should not only "have their own comfort and profit in mind, but the good of the entire human community."Benedict XVI said the final blessing. and Williams together.
The ecumenical ceremony was the last item on the agenda on the pope's second day of a visit to Britain. The visit will end on Sunday with a large Mass for the beatification of the English theologian John Henry Newman (1801-1890).
Meeting with representatives of civil society
Earlier, the pope had opposed a state-sponsored pushback of religion into the private sphere. Speaking to political, business and cultural leaders at Westminster Hall on Friday night, the pope said religion is an "extremely important interlocutor in the national discourse". He said lawmakers should not view it as a "problem".
At present, Christianity in particular is being marginalized "even in countries that place great value on tolerance," the Catholic Church leader said. There are "worrying signs" of disregard for freedom of conscience and religion, he said. Critically, he referred, for example, to an obstruction of public religious celebrations such as Christmas. They were under the "questionable amption that such customs could in any way offend members of other religions or non-believers".
At the beginning of the ceremony, Speaker of the House John Bercow welcomed the pope. He stressed that the event has a "profoundly historical significance". The 47-year-old recalled the long "tradition of political debate" in the building where Parliament used to meet. Faith is "not a relic in political discourse or in modern society" but is "deeply rooted in its structure," Bercow said.
Several former prime ministers were in the audience: Tony Blair (57) and Gordon Brown (59) for Labour, Margaret Thatcher (84) and John Major (67) for the Conservatives. Foreign Secretary William Hague was also present. Sitting next to the Tories was Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats. Prime Minister David Cameron was unable to attend because of his father's funeral; he plans to meet with the pope this Saturday.
In his remarks on the relationship between the state, society and religion, Benedict XVI. stressed the need for moral principles to be anchored in natural law. The ethical principles of a democracy should not be based only on social consensus. The global financial crisis has shown that "pragmatic short-term solutions" to complex social and ethical problems are useless, the pope said.
But it is not primarily the task of religion to set ethical standards, Benedict XVI stressed. Continue. According to Catholic catch-all, even non-believers could recognize objective moral principles with the help of reason. In the social debate about values, religion must above all take on a "corrective role". This, however, is "not always welcome". He also blames "distorted forms of religion such as sectarianism and fundamentalism".
At the same time, Benedict XVI. highlighted the similarities between Britain's pluralistic democracy and Catholic social teaching. The latter uses different terms, but has a lot in common with Anglo-Saxon democracy in terms of its approach.
At the end of the event, Benedict XVI shook. many hands.
While the pope spoke at Westminster Hall on ies of faith in civil society, victims of sexual abuse, atheists and other opponents of the papal visit demonstrated outside the door. A spokesman for the secular Protest the Pope association told the BBC, "There never should have been a state visit." There is still a dispute over whether the Vatican is a state, he said. First and foremost, he said, it is a spiritual visit and the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890).