Feb 24, 2013 / 04:03 pm
Pope Benedict has been a leader devoted to ecumenical efforts, according to a professor of Christian history and ecumenism at Fuller Theological Seminary, a Protestant school in Pasadena, Calif.
“I have appreciated his commitment to ecumenism,” Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., who is also a minister in the Assemblies of God, an ecclesial community in the Pentecostal tradition, told CNA Feb. 19.
Robeck participated in the third inter-faith gathering at Assisi with Pope Benedict in 2011, and corresponded with him when he was still prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
After the warmth of John Paul II’s pontificate, Robeck said there was some apprehension in the Protestant world that Pope Benedict might not “carry on in the way John Paul had.”
Yet Pope Benedict “pretty much set everybody at ease by re-committing himself” to ecumenical efforts, Robeck said. He reported that in a July 2011 Pope Benedict greeted a Pentecostal group during an outdoor address, which “for me was a very affirming kind of thing.”
“He’s the first Pope we’ve heard make a verbal statements in his speech welcoming the Pentecostals, wishing us well and saying how important he felt the (Pentecostal-Catholic) dialogue was,” Robeck remembered.
Robeck said Pope Benedict’s three-book series on Jesus of Nazareth was warmly received by Pentecostals. “Benedict really won them over with his three volume series on the life of Jesus; that’s a very important contribution he’s made to the evangelical community.”
“Here at Fuller that series is held up quite highly by faculty members,” noted Robeck, and the series has helped pastors and church leaders to “recognize the level of his scholarship, and identify with the message he brings…they see him as providing really good comment on the New Testament.”
Robeck noted his personal regard, as a Christian historian, for Pope Benedict’s reflections on the Fathers of the Church. He also said the Pope’s commitment to the new evangelization is “very important,” and that “Benedict has been an important figure in helping all of our churches to rethink the question of evangelism.”
Pope Benedict’s efforts to reach out to various communities, particularly the Russian Orthodox and the Society of St. Pius X, has given Robeck “a great deal of hope that Benedict’s concern about unity, is a real concern.”
Robeck also noted that “Dominus Iesus,” a declaration written in 2000 by Pope Benedict when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “really spoke to the concerns of evangelicals and Pentecostals by calling once again for a conformity to the ‘middle,’ with his reiteration of Jesus Christ as the only way, the truth and the life.”
“Dominus Iesus,” which emphasize the salvific universality of Christ and the Church, “was a very important document…very much appreciated by evangelicals and Pentecostals,” Robeck said. …
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