WASHINGTON (March 22, 2000) -- Two Catholic Bishops closely involved in ecumenical relations expressed gratitude for statements made by officials of the United Methodist Church and by a Pentecostal scholar in response to Pope John Paul's recent "Purification of Memory" liturgy at the Vatican.
The Methodist and Pentecostal statements will contribute to healing within the community of churches as well as the wider society, according to Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange, Chairman of the NCCB Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Catholic Co-Chair of the United Methodist-Roman Catholic Dialogue.
"We are most gratified by the response of the United Methodist Church leadership to the Holy Father's service of confession and repentance," Bishop Brown said. "We are all very much in need of God's forgiveness for our sinfulness and that of our predecessors as we pursue Christ's will for the unity of the Church."
Bishop Skylstad said: "With profound gratitude and appreciation, I read the statement of the United Methodists on forgiveness and reconciliation. Such an inspiring and encouraging initiative can contribute tremendously to healing and solidarity not only within communities of faith but in the larger society as well. I congratulate our sisters and brothers in the United Methodist tradition for their courage and prophetic leadership."
The Methodist reaction took the form of a letter to Pope John Paul from the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church. The Pentecostal reaction came from by Dr. Frank Macchia, President of the Society for Pentecostoal Studies, Vanguard University. Dr. Macchia asked that Catholics forgive those Pentecostals who have condemned the Catholic Church for "spiritual harlotry and idolatry."
In their letter to Pope John Paul, the General Commission on Christian Unity of the United Methodist Church declared:
"On behalf of the ecumenical directors of our church, we gratefully acknowledge your clear, pastoral call for Christians to repent and be reconciled to our gracious God and to each other. As United Methodists, we humbly join in confessing our sins of commission and omission in our common heritage as well as in the present...We also confess that too often our own acts, words, thoughts and attitudes continue to wound the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not always live as our Lord taught us, and too often we ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit to manifest the grace and peace of Christ in the world around us.
"Pray with us, Holy Father, as we enter a time of deep reflection in the life our United Methodist Church."
The statement was signed by Bishop William Boyd Grove, Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops, Bishop Roy L. Sano, President, General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, and Bruce W Robbins, General Secretary of the General Commission.
The three officials sent a copy of the letter to Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at the Vatican. They asked the Cardinal to convey the letter to the Holy Father.
In the letter to Cardinal Cassidy, the Methodist officials noted that United Methodists have been struggling for some time "to face the shameful parts of our history, particularly in regard to slavery, segregation and other manifestations of racism.
"Through a Commission on Union, United Methodists have worked with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church to acknowledge and repent of the racism that separated us from one another," they said. "At our next General Conference, May 2-12, 2000, we will have an opportunity to confess to God our corporate and individual sins of racism and ask forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that the Holy Spirit will direct us as we seek to find ways to implement more just and faithful relations in our church and the world. We cite this as a concrete way in which we are seeking to live out the call to unity."
Dr. Macchia's response was made at a plenary meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, in Kirkland, Washington, March 18. Earlier, Father Kilian McDonnell of St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, had discussed the sins which some Catholics have committed against Pentecostals.
"Though Father McDonnell did not request a formal response, I believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us as Pentecostals to offer one," Dr. Macchia said.
"I ask that Catholics forgive the Pentecostals who have cherished visions of the end of time that condemn the Catholic Church for spiritual harlotry and idolatry. I ask forgiveness for those who have assumed that the Catholic Church currently advocates salvation by works, denying the grace and truth of the Gospel, and for insensitive evangelistic efforts based on this assumption.
"It is my hope that other Pentecostals will join with this statement and that our mutual request for forgiveness will be the occasion for greater understanding and grace among us," Dr. Macchia declared.
"Dr. Macchia's response as President of the Society for Pentecostal Studies to Father McDonnell's confession is particularly touching to us as Catholics,"Bishop Brown commented. "We are only gradually coming to know and appreciate the Pentecostal community. We hope that our common prayer and repentance may lead us deeper into the unity that only the Holy Spirit can give."