Image: Pope John Paul II
Giampiero Sposito  /  Reuters
Pope John Paul II listens Saturday during the vespers service marking the 40th anniversary of a decree that modernized the Roman Catholic Church. The 84-year-old Polish Pope urged Christians to seek unity, but cited "new problems, especially in the field of ethics."
updated 11/13/2004 8:26:54 PM ET 2004-11-14T01:26:54

Despite progress, many “stumbling stones” still stand in the way to greater harmony between the branches of Christianity, Pope John Paul II said Saturday.

The pope presided over a vespers service to mark the 40th anniversary of a decree by the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meeting that modernized the Roman Catholic Church. The decree put greater emphasis on “ecumenism,” or reaching out to other faiths.

John Paul, who has Parkinson’s disease, read a few paragraphs of his remarks clearly, though he was often out of breath and finally had to turn his speech over to a bishop.

“Thanks to God, many differences and misunderstandings have been overcome, but many stumbling stones are still strewn along the path,” he said in remarks read by the bishop.

The speech cited “new problems, especially in the field of ethics, where new divisions have opened up that impede us from bearing witness together.”

Though John Paul’s remarks mentioned no specific issues, the Vatican has publicly protested the ordination of women in other Christian faiths and the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church.

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