From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Innsbruck Symposium: Role Of Papacy In

Date 08 Apr 2000 02:10:08

Modern World

April 8, 2000
Adventist Press Service (APD)
Christian B. Schaeffler, Editor-in-chief
Fax +41-61-261 61 18
CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

Innsbruck Symposium On Papacy:
Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Discuss Role 
in Modern World 

Innsbruck/Austria.    The Pope often has the duty 
to be "a voice crying out in the desert," 
according to Bishop Alois Kothgasser of Innsbruck. 
He was speaking at a symposium on the meaning of 
the Papacy in today's world at the Faculty of 
Theology of the University of Innsbruck, reports 
the Catholic News Agency ZENIT in Rome. The 
symposium, entitled "Papacy: Hope, Opportunity, 
Offence," was held on March 23-24, 2000.

"In a time and a world where everything that can 
be done is done, the office of Peter is needed as 
an advocate of life, especially for the poor, for 
human dignity, for freedom from globalising 
pressures and the misuse of science and power," 
explained the Bishop. In the ethical realm, the 
Pope is one of the only voices that "protects man 
from man." 
Roman Catholic Bishop Kothgasser explained, that 
the Pope also protects the position of the Church 
in society. "The service of Peter is necessary to 
guarantee the freedom of the Church in all its 
manifestations, especially when worldly power 
tried to limit the Church." He called the Papacy a 
"sign and tool" for the unity of the Church 
founded by Jesus Christ. "When the office of Peter 
is understood in this way, it is not dominion, but 
rather often a very tiring service." 

In the discussion after the Bishop's talk, 
representatives of other Christian churches in 
Austria recognised the role of Pope John Paul II 
as "spokesman" of Christianity, though each 
presented his own valuation of the Papacy in 

Looking back on the Pope's prayer for pardon on 
March 12, Austrian Old Catholic Bishop Bernhard 
Heitz spoke of a historic "turning point." He said 
that his church would gladly take up the Pope's 
invitation to dialogue, despite the years of 
resentment that have built up. He feels that there 
is already a "new vision" of the controversial 
dogma of Papal infallibility of 1870 among Old 
Catholic theologians. Bishop Heitz said, that 
after examining the history of the first 
millennium of Christianity, he is ready for a 
"historical primacy in closer co-operation with 
collegiality," and looking forward to an 
Ecumenical World Council under the guidance of 

Bishop Herwig Sturm of the Evangelical-Lutheran 
Church called Christian unity a "great value," but 
at the same time a "toilsome chore." He envisions 
the role of the Pope as "Chairman in Truth and 
Love." He repeated calls of the German Lutherans 
for a shared celebration of the Lord's Supper, 
which is not yet possible since the Lutherans do 
not accept the doctrine of the real presence of 
Christ in the consecrated forms. 

Superintendent Helmut Nausner of the United 
Methodist Church in Austria said that his church 
is "open to everything" with respect to the 
Papacy. However, he questioned whether this office 
has any ecumenical future. His preference leaned 
toward a synodal model of Church government, like 
that of the Orthodox today. 

The Greek Orthodox theologian Grigorios 
Larentzakis (Graz) said that he had no misgivings 
about the creation of new Patriarchies within the 
Roman Catholic Church. 

Former President of the Polish Council of 
Ministers, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, spoke on the person 
of Pope John Paul II, as a personal friend. He 
judged that only with the hindsight of history 
will we be able to truly judge the greatness of 
Pope Wojtyla. He also spoke about the Pope's role 
in the Balkan conflict, in which his efforts went 
"to the extreme." 

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