The dialogue between the Reformed Church and the Roman Catholic Church has the power to heal "tragic divisions" that arose among Christians during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday, as he met with representatives from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
"I pray that our meeting today will itself bear fruit in a renewed commitment to work for the unity of all Christians," Benedict said.
Saturday’s brief gathering marked the first between the two groups since Benedict was ordained, and follows in a line of meetings the new pope has opened up with other Christian bodies within the last year. Benedict, who said after his election in April that promoting Christian unity would be his "primary task," has already held similar dialogues with international Lutheran and Methodist figureheads.
Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the WARC and stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA, said he hopes such meetings would be the first steps among many to strengthen Christian unity.
"There is still much to be done to move beyond our past condemnations of one another, to truly respect one another as parts of the one body of Jesus Christ, serve God together without worrying about inhibitions in our nations and to come together at the table of our Lord," he said.
Benedict agreed, saying there is a need for a "purification of memory." He also hailed the Catholic-Reformed dialogue, saying it has "made an important contribution to the demanding work of theological reflection and historical investigation indispensable for surmounting the tragic divisions which arose among Christians in the sixteenth century."
Meanwhile, following the meeting, WARC general secretary Setri Nyomi said he hoped the meeting would prove to be a symbol of the churches’ commitment to work together.
"This visit was an important symbol of WARC's commitment to Christian unity as well as to working with other Christian world communions in transforming the world into more just communities," Nyomi said.
Other Reformed members at the meeting were Sabine Hofmeister, moderator of the Reformed Synod of Denmark; Maria Bonafede, moderator of the Waldensian Church; and Odair Pedroso Mateus, WARC's executive secretary for theology and ecumenical engagement.
Following the high-level dialogue with the Pope, the delegation also met with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Council for Justice and Peace.