Porto Alegre, Brazil
Disputes in churches about homosexuality are hampering the search for Christian unity, Vatican officials said during the global meeting of the World Council of Churches.
“In the past all Christian churches had the same position on this question,” Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told a media conference at the WCC assembly. “But now there are not only divisions between our church and other churches, there are also divisions within churches.”
He referred in particular to the Anglican Communion, which has been riven with division over homosexuality since the election in 2003 of Gene Robinson as the first bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States to live openly in an active homosexual relationship.
Cardinal Kasper’s commission has previously stated that Bishop Robinson’s election “created new obstacles” for relations between the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican Communion. And, in 2005, a Vatican statement said people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should not become priests.
“We want to be faithful to what Scripture is saying,” said Cardinal Kasper. “There are also some anthropological questions. People are no longer sure what it means to be a man, to be a woman.”
Still, the Catholic church opposed “any kind of discrimination” against homosexuals, he said.
Bishop Brian Farrell, the secretary of the Vatican’s unity commission, said the Roman Catholic church was resolved to continue its dialogue with the Anglican Communion. Still, it was observing developments with concern. “This is one of our ecumenical partners in difficulty and we are very concerned they find a way out,” said Bishop Farrell. Earlier in the assembly, Pope Benedict XVI had pledged to continue working with the World Council of Churches – the world’s biggest church grouping – in promoting Christian unity.
“We look forward to continuing this journey of hope and promise, as we intensify our endeavours towards reaching that day when Christians are united in proclaiming the Gospel message of salvation for all,” said Pope Benedict in a message to the WCC assembly.
The Roman Catholic church is not a member of the WCC, which groups more than 340 churches in more than 100 countries mainly from the Protestant and Christian Orthodox traditions representing more than 550 million people.
Pope Benedict – then Professor Joseph Ratzinger – was from 1968 to 1975 a member of the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission, which has Catholics as full members and seeks to promote church unity through theological dialogue.
The day after his election as pontiff in 2005, Pope Benedict described his primary task as helping Christian unity and said he would do “everything in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism.”