On Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
"We Must Not Doubt That One Day We Will Be 'One'"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Sunday at midday when praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
This Sunday is celebrated in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place every year from Jan. 18-25. It is an initiative, born at the beginning of the past century, which has undergone a positive development, increasingly becoming an ecumenical point of reference, in which Christians of the various confessions worldwide pray and reflect on the same biblical text.
The passage chosen this year is taken from chapter 18 of Matthew's Gospel, which refers to some of the teachings of Jesus that affect the community of disciples. Among other things, it affirms: "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20).
These words of the Lord Jesus infuse much confidence and hope! In particular, they invite Christians to ask God together for that full unity among them, for which Christ himself, with heartfelt insistence, prayed to the Father during the Last Supper (cf. John 17:11,21,23). We understand, therefore, the reason why it is so important that we, Christians, invoke the gift of unity with persevering constancy. If we do so with faith, we can be sure that our request will be heard. We do not know when or how, as it is not for us to know, but we must not doubt that one day we will be "one," as Jesus and the Father are united in the Holy Spirit.
The prayer for unity is the soul of the ecumenical movement, which, thanks be to God, advances throughout the world. Of course difficulties and trials are not lacking, but these also have their spiritual usefulness, as they drive us to have patience and perseverance and to grow in fraternal charity. God is love and only if we are converted to him and accept his Word will we all be united in the one Mystical Body of Christ.
The expression, "God is love," in Latin "Deus Caritas Est," is the title of my first encyclical, which will be published next Wednesday, Jan. 25, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I am happy it coincides with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On that day, I will go to St. Paul's Basilica to preside at Vespers, in which representatives of other churches and ecclesial communities will take part. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us.
[After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in six languages. In Italian he said:]
Five hundred years ago, on Jan. 22, 1506, Pope Julius II welcomed and blessed the first contingent of Swiss Guards who came to Rome to ensure the defense of his person and of the Apostolic Palace. Thus the Papal Swiss Guard was born. On recalling that historical event, I joyfully greet all those who make up this distinguished corps to which, as a sign of appreciation and recognition, I impart my heartfelt special apostolic blessing.
[Benedict XVI added in English:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus. During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us ask the Lord to grant that all his followers may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. John 17:20-21). May all Christians intensify their efforts to be builders of unity in truth and love!
[Speaking again in Italian, the Holy Father said:]
Among the many concerns for the international situation, my thoughts go today again to Africa and, in particular, to Ivory Coast where grave tensions persist among the country's different social and political components. I invite all to continue with the constructive dialogue to attain reconciliation and peace. I entrust these intentions to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, so loved by the Ivorian people.
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Pope Benedict XVI - Bishop of Rome, 661 869-1000
Pope, Benedict, Prayer, Christian, Unity
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