VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate was marked by strong ties of friendship and esteem with the leaders of the world's Orthodox and Anglican Christians, but his papacy also coincided with a difficult time in the search for full Christian unity.
In the face of new obstacles to ecumenism -- particularly regarding the ministry of women, attitudes toward homosexuality and differences on ethical issues -- Pope Benedict often emphasized the role of prayer in seeking Christian unity, as well as the need for divided Christians to work together to protect religious freedom and defend traditional Christian values.
For Catholics coming from the Anglican tradition, the ecumenical highlight of Pope Benedict's pontificate was his decision in 2009 to establish personal ordinariates, jurisdictions similar to dioceses, which recognize their full communion with Rome while preserving some of their Anglican heritage.
Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, head of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for former Anglicans in the United States and Canada, said, "Unambiguously, it is his ecumenical legacy."
Canadian Bishop Donald Bolen of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Catholic co-chairman of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission, had a slightly different view.
"The ordinariates for Catholics coming from an Anglican background are not a new form of ecumenism or the new hope for Christian unity," he said. "They are pastoral provisions for individuals and groups who, in conscience and after long prayer, have sought full communion with Rome while not wanting to leave behind their spiritual, theological and liturgical heritage.
"Welcoming them into the church and encouraging them to hold on to that heritage is a recognition on the part of Pope Benedict and the Roman Catholic Church -- arising from decades of dialogue -- that the diverse gifts given to different Christian communities should enrich the entire body of Christ," Bishop Bolen said in an email response to questions.
Msgr. Steenson said Pope Benedict's care for former Anglicans entering the Catholic Church "was and has been a project close to his heart for many years, even as Cardinal (Joseph) Ratzinger," head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith...
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