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On Ecumenism

"Unity Comes About Especially by Praying"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at midday Sunday, before praying the Angelus with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday is situated during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that, as we know, is observed every year in our hemisphere Jan. 18-25. The theme for 2007 is an expression taken from Mark's Gospel, and it refers to the people's amazement over Jesus' cure of a man who could not hear or speak: "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" (Mark 7:37).

I intend to comment at greater length on this biblical topic next Jan. 25, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, when, on the occasion of the closing of the week of prayer, I will preside at 5:30 p.m. over the celebration of vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. I expect many of you at that liturgical meeting, given that unity comes about especially by praying, and the more unanimous the prayer, the more pleasing it is to the Lord.

This year, the initial draft for the week, adapted later by the Mixed International Commission, was prepared by the faithful of Umlazi, in South Africa, a very poor city where AIDS has acquired pandemic proportions and where human hopes are very few.

But the risen Christ is hope for all. He is so especially for Christians. Heirs of division that occurred in past times, in this circumstance they have wanted to launch an appeal: Christ can do all. He "makes the deaf hear and the mute speak"; that is, he is able to infuse in Christians the ardent desire to listen to the other, to communicate with the other, and to speak with him the language of mutual love.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity thus reminds us that ecumenism is a profound dialogic experience, a mutual listening and speaking, knowing one another better. It is a task that all can undertake, especially in regard to spiritual ecumenism, based on prayer and on sharing what is possible for the time being among Christians.

I hope that the longing for unity, translated into prayer and fraternal collaboration to relieve human sufferings, will spread ever more at the level of parishes and ecclesial movements and among religious institutes.

I take advantage of the occasion to thank the Ecumenical Commission of the Vicariate of Rome and the city's parish priests, who encourage the faithful to observe this week. Also, in a more general way, I am grateful to all those, in all parts of the world, who pray and work for union with conviction and constancy.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, help all the faithful to let themselves be opened ever more profoundly by Christ to mutual communication in charity and in truth, to be transformed in him into only one heart and soul (Acts 4:32).

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. May all Christians, strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, have the courage to share the Good News of our Lord with the poor and afflicted. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the grace and peace of Christ the Lord!

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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