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Angelus: On Christian Unity

"We All Have the Duty to Pray and Work for the Overcoming of Every Division"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2008 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Two days ago began the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during which Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, knowing that their divisions constitute an obstacle to the reception of the Gospel, together implore the Lord, in a yet more intense way, for the gift of full communion. This providential initiative was born 100 years ago, when Father Paul Wattson started the "Octave" of prayer for the unity of all the disciples of Christ. Today for this occasion the spiritual sons and daughters of Father Wattson, the friars and sisters of the Atonement, are present in St. Peter's Square and I greet them cordially and encourage them to pursue the cause of unity with their special dedication.

We all have the duty to pray and work for the overcoming of every division between Christians, responding to Christ's desire "ut unum sint." Prayer, conversion of heart, the reinforcement of the bonds of communion, form the essence of this spiritual movement that we hope will soon lead the disciples of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist together, the manifestation of their full unity.

This year's biblical theme is dense with meaning: "Pray always" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). St. Paul addresses himself to the community of Thessalonica, which was experiencing internal clashes and conflicts, to remind them with insistence about certain fundamental attitudes, among which there stands out, indeed, incessant prayer. With this invitation of his, he wants it to be understood that from the new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit there flows forth the capacity to overcome all egoism, to live together in peace and fraternal union, to bear in large measure the burdens and sufferings of others. We must never tire of praying for the unity of Christians! When Jesus, during the Last Supper, prayed that his disciples "be one," he had a precise goal in mind: "That the world believe" (John 17:21).

The Church's evangelizing mission, therefore, moves along the path of ecumenism, the path of unity of faith, of evangelical witness and authentic fraternity. As is done every year, on Thursday, Jan. 25, I will go to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with solemn vespers. I invite Romans and pilgrims to join with me and with Christians of all the churches and ecclesial communities who will take part in the celebration, to ask of God the precious gift of reconciliation among all the baptized.

May the Mother of God, whose appearance to Alphonse Ratisbonne in the Church of Sant'Andrea delle Frate in Rome we remember today, obtain from the Lord the abundance of the Holy Spirit for all disciples in such a way that we can arrive at perfect unity and in this way offer the witness of faith and life that the world urgently needs.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said the following:]

First of all I wish to greet the young students, the professors and all of you who have come in great numbers to St. Peter's Square to participate in the prayer of the Angelus and to express your solidarity; I also greet the many who unite themselves to us spiritually. I thank you from my heart, dear friends; I thank the cardinal vicar who has made himself the promoter of this meeting.

As you know, I happily accepted the courteous invitation that was made to me to give a lecture this past Thursday at the inauguration of the academic year at La Sapienza -- University of Rome. I know this athenaeum well, I esteem and have affection for the students who study there: On several occasions every year many of them come to meet me in the Vatican, together with their colleagues from other universities. Unfortunately, as is known, the climate that was created rendered my presence at the ceremony inopportune. I postponed my visit but I wanted in any case to send the text that I had prepared for the occasion.

I love the search for truth, the comparison, the frank and respectful dialogue between reciprocal positions of the university environment, which for many years was my world. All of that is also the mission of the Church, committed to faithfully following Jesus, master of life, truth and love. As professor emeritus, so to speak, who has met many students in his life, I encourage all of you university students to be respectful of the opinions of others and to seek, with a free and responsible spirit, the truth and the good. To all and to each I renew my expression of gratitude, assuring my affection and my prayer.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English the Holy Father said the following:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today's Gospel presents the figure of John the Baptist who proclaims Jesus as the Chosen One of God. It is Christ, anointed with the Holy Spirit, who brings forgiveness of sins and the gift of new life. May we welcome this gift and strive with courage to follow in the footsteps of our Saviour. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Pope, Benedict, Angelus, Christian, Unity, Prayer

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1 - 2 of 2 Comments

  1. Gail McCallum
    6 years ago

    Hello Bobby Robson - might be able to help your differences of opinion.

    Peace, Gail

  2. Bobby Robson
    7 years ago

    I am a cradle Catholic with a passion for God and a passion to see Christians worldwide unite together in our battle against our common enemy the devil. Paul says, "The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ. It was in one Spirit that all of us were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit." (Romans 12:12-13).

    As I watched on TV the Pope's activities during his recent visit to the United States, I could see and sense the seeds for reconciliation take root. The Pope is a universal symbol for Christianity and how he was received with such dignity and respect by our Country's leaders and the general public was overwhelmingly inspirational.

    We know there are obvious differences between Catholics and Protestants in terms of church leadership and theology. However, if we focus on our common beliefs, we would be in a much better position to deal with our common problem...the devil. Simply because we (Christians) attend different churchs and have different preachers, priests and pastors does not mean any particular denomination has a more secure path to Heaven than any other true believer in Christ.

    The following is my firm belief regarding all followers of Jesus Christ:

    1. We are all on a team with Jesus Christ as our Captain. He is the Son of the Living God who came down from Heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit and became man. The Holy Trinity is One God in Three Persons...God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God has no beginning and no end.

    He is omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present. This is a mystery which as Christians we believe with all our heart and may be explained to us one day after our earthly life is complete.

    2. The Bible is God's instruction manual to His children, inspired by Him and absolutely infallible, written by His chosen servants. "All scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching - for reproof, correction, and training in holiness so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16).

    3. Jesus Christ suffered, died and was buried. On the third day He rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent us a Helper, the Holy guide and protect us and to be with us always. Christ will come to earth God's appointed time. "The exact time is not yours to know. The Father has reserved that to Himself." (Acts 1:7).

    Christ sacrificed Himself for the atonement of mankind's sins...past, present, and future. His supreme sacrifice singularly opened the door to Heaven...allowing every human being, though sinners, through free will, the opportunity to enter into the presence of God and be with Him forever in our next life.

    4. The entire Gospel teachings of Christ can be summed up in two commandments. "You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength." and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus said this sums up the entire law, and the prophets as well.

    5. Paul follows in his letter to the Ephesians which to me is the essence of a Christian's life: "May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may attain to the fullness of God Himself." (3:17-19).
    6. Jesus taught us how to pray: "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen."
    7. As Christians we can all agree on the wisdom in this nugget of truth: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all things be mindful of Him, and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Now for the root of all our problems...

    We must recognize that there is an active, powerful enemy of God at work in our midst. In
    fact he used to be on God's Team. However, he became prideful and haughty, and because of the status he held and the nature of his rebellion, God irrevocably kicked him off the Team. Earth happens to be his current residence.

    We know him by many names...satan, lucifer, devil, prince of the world, the tempter, the evil one, the enemy, father of lies, thief, and many other similar references. Since he knows what his ultimate fate will be, his only goal is to destroy the lives of as many human beings as possible, before God finally says...We are done.

    I think the father of lies and thief may be the best descriptions for satan, given to us by John in his Gospel. As John says, "The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy." (10:10).

    One of the most effective weapons he uses is divisiveness. Just look at how many Christians so often vehemently argue with each other over differences of opinion.

    Mahatma Gandhi is said to have studied Christianity intensely but declined to become a follower of Christ because he, "knew so many Christians who were so unlike Christ."

    Christians spend so much time and energy debating the differences among Catholics and Protestants that the common focus and beliefs are somehow diminished and marginalized. We then become a vulnerable target for the enemy.

    Matthew quotes Jesus in his Gospel, "A kingdom torn by strife is headed for its downfall. A household split into factions cannot last for long." (12:25), and later, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (12:30).

    This is how we fight the enemy...
    Paul says we are engaged in Christian warfare and we must, "Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires and hold your ground." (Ephesians 6:11-13).

    Every evil in this world is the result of satan's activities. We must pray constantly to our Lord that He will prevent the liar from corrupting our lives and the lives of all people around the world. "In all circumstances hold faith up before you as your shield; it will help you extinguish the fiery darts of the devil." (Ephesians 6:16).

    Once we allow the Holy Spirit to indwell in our hearts, we can then have the confidence of knowing that, " Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4) and ,"No weapon formed against you shall prevail." (Isaiah 54:17).

    We know who wins...

    God's Word says, "The devil who led them astray was hurled into the pool of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had also been thrown. There they will be tortured day and night, forever and ever." (Revelation 20:10).

    But let's keep him from winning so many battles. "Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8).

    And finally...

    As noted in the agreed upon Evangelicals and Catholics Together "ECT" statement in 1994, "Evangelicals must speak the Gospel to Catholics and Catholics to Evangelicals, always speaking the truth in love, so that 'working hard to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . . . the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God'" (Ephesians 4:3, 12-13).

    "All who truly believe in Jesus Christ are brothers and sisters in the Lord and must not allow their differences, however important, to undermine this great truth, or to deflect them from bearing witness together to God's gift of salvation in Christ."

    Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians 1:10 "I beg you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree in what you say. Let there be no factions; rather, be united in mind and judgment."

    Let us then always reflect Christ's influence in our home, at work, at church, and at play.

    And let us be like Joshua who said, "If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (24:15). It's an easy decision.

    As James put it in his letter, "You are a vapor that appears briefly and then vanishes." (v14). We need to use what little time we have left in this life to move forward love.

    God bless you.
    Bobby Robson

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