Leaders of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) expressed their appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI after the announcement of his intention to resign on February 28.
"I have deeply appreciated the inclusion by the pope of other Christian fellowships, such as the BWA, in serious discussions of matters that have confronted the Christian world," said BWA President John Upton. "The pope has always been gracious in his welcome to the Vatican and respectful of the insights and opinions of other Christian communities."
General Secretary Neville Callam acknowledged "the ministry that Pope Benedict XVI has exercised, in particular his contribution to ecumenical relations." Callam took note of the pope's theological works and his pastoral ministry that have "provided the Christian community with a rich storehouse of spiritual reflections worthy of detailed study."
"I applaud the pope's openness to bilateral dialogues that have both strengthened understandings and furthered Christian witness," Upton said. "The pope has demonstrated his love of the church and he will be remembered fondly for his scholarly and gentle leadership."
Callam recalled the private audience the pope gave to participants in the dialogue involving Baptists and Catholics during their meetings in Rome in 2007. In receiving the delegates, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the dialogue would result in "increase of understanding and cooperation between Catholics and Baptists."
Baptists and Catholics have participated in theological dialogue since 1984. The first round extended from 1984-1988 and the second from 2006-2010. Callam acknowledged the pope's support of the second round of the dialogue.
The BWA General Secretary said the pope's ecumenical openness was on full display during the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church where the Baptist community was represented by Timothy George, dean and professor of divinity, history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School in the state of Alabama in the United States.
"We convey best wishes on a well deserved retirement," Callam stated. "His immense contribution to world Christianity will not be forgotten and we pray for him God's blessings in the coming years."
Baptist World Alliance®
© February 14, 2013