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Pope speaks on 'overcoming pessimism on path to Christian Unity'

St Paul's Outside-the-Walls

St Paul's Outside-the-Walls

Yesterday evening in the Roman basilica of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Pope presided at the celebration of Vespers to mark the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In his homily the Holy Father recalled how this year "the theme suggested for our meditations came from the Christian communities of Jerusalem. ... The Christians of the Holy City invite us to renew and strengthen our commitment to rebuild full unity by meditating on the model of life followed by the first disciples of Christ gathered in Jerusalem. 'They devoted themselves', we read in the Acts of the Apostles, 'to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers'".

"The Apostles' teaching, fraternal communion, breaking bread and prayer were the tangible elements of the life of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, united by the action of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, these are the essential traits of all Christian communities in all times and places. We could, in other words, say that they represent the fundamental aspects of the unity of the visible Body of the Church".

Benedict XVI highlighted how "over the course of the last few decades, the ecumenical movement, 'fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit', has made important progress. ... Nonetheless, we are well aware that we are still far from the unity for which Christ prayed", he said. "The unity to which Christ, through His Spirit, calls the Church, cannot be realised only at the level of organisational structures but is forged at a more profound level, in 'confessing the one faith, celebrating divine worship in common, and keeping the fraternal harmony of the family of God'."

He said: "Efforts to re-establish unity among divided Christians cannot be reduced only to recognising our reciprocal differences and to achieving peaceful coexistence. What we long for is that unity for which Christ Himself prayed, and which by its nature becomes manifest in the communion of faith, of the Sacraments and of the ministry.

"The journey to this unity must be perceived as a moral imperative, a response to a specific call from the Lord. For this reason it is important to overcome the temptation to despondency and pessimism, which is a lack of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit".

The Holy Father continued: "We must passionately continue the journey towards this goal, through serious and rigorous dialogue to develop our shared theological, liturgical and spiritual heritage; through reciprocal knowledge; through the ecumenical formation of new generations and, above all, through conversion of heart and prayer".

Referring then to the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, he recalled how "in his long missionary journeys Paul, as he roamed through various cities and regions, never forgot his bond of communion with the Church of Jerusalem. Collections to support the Christians of that community ...occupied an important place in Paul's concerns. He considered it not only as a work of charity but as a sign and guarantee of unity and communion between the Churches he founded and that original community in the Holy City, a sign of the unity of the one Church of Christ".

Finally, Benedict XVI addressed a special greeting to "our brothers and sisters from other Churches and ecclesial communities", including "members of the Joint International Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Ancient Churches of the East, who are meeting in Rome during these days. We entrust the success of your meeting to the Lord, that it may be another step forward towards our longed-for unity". He also addressed a special greeting to representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, "who have come to Rome, with the bishop of the Church of Bavaria".

Source: VIS