Pope Francis on ecumenism, secularism, terrorism and gossip

(RNS) Pope Francis leaves on Monday (Oct. 31) for an overnight trip to Sweden, a historically Protestant country that today is one of the most secular in the world.

The visit is to mark the start of observances of next year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which traditionally dates from Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a German cathedral.

On Friday (Oct. 28), the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica published an interview that Francis — who is also a member of the Jesuit order — gave to a Swedish Jesuit, the Rev. Ulf Jonsson.

In the interview the two discuss a wide range of topics, from relations between Catholics and Protestants to being a minority faith in a secular culture and the “terrorism” of gossip.

Here are excerpts from their exchange:

On his goals for the Sweden trip and relations with Lutherans:

“I can think of only one word to say: to come close. My hope and expectation is that of coming closer to my brothers and sisters. Closeness does all of us good. Distance, on the other hand, makes us bitter. When we are distant, we close within ourselves and we become individual entities, incapable of encountering each other.

“We are held back by fears. We need to learn to transcend ourselves to encounter others. If we do not do this, we Christians, too, become sick because of our divisions. My expectation is that of being able to take a step of closeness, of being closer to my brothers and sisters in Sweden.”

On the best means to promote unity among Christians:

“[T]heological dialogue must continue, even if it will not be easy. Personally, I believe that enthusiasm must shift towards common prayer and the works of mercy — work done together to help the sick, the poor, and the imprisoned. To do something together is a high and effective form of dialogue.

I also think about education. It is important to work together and not in a sectarian way. There is a policy we should have clear in every case: to proselytize in the ecclesial field is a sin. Benedict XVI told us that the Church does not grow by proselytism, but by attraction. Proselytism is a sinful attitude. It would be like transforming the Church into an organization.

Speaking, praying, working together: this is the path that we must take. Look, in ecumenism the one who never makes a mistake is the enemy, the devil. When Christians are persecuted and murdered, they are chosen because they are Christians, not because they are Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Catholics or Orthodox. An ecumenism of blood exists. Continue reading

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