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"Ecumenism Does Not Allow Anything to Become Lost"

Cardinal Kasper's Homily at End of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

ROME, FEB. 11, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, gave at a Mass that concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. He gave the homily in Italian.

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Total conversion fosters the grace of unity

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "My peace I give to you": This year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is inspired by these words taken from the Gospel of John. To all of you here I now address the ancient biblical and liturgical greeting: Shalom! Pax vobiscum! Peace be with you!

I greet with joy the Christian communities of Rome, especially the brothers and sisters of the communities that are not Catholic, united to us in the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This year, a special bond joins us to Christians of the Middle East and in a particular way to those of Syria, where -- in Aleppo -- the text was prepared for the Week of Prayer. Let us fervently ask that peace may return to this tormented region of the world; a region which, in the early centuries, was the cradle of a rich Christian culture; a region where today, however, Christians are a minority but give a good example of living in concord and of ecumenical collaboration. To these brothers and sisters we extend our gratitude and prayer: "Peace be with you!"

Jesus says be "peacemakers"

2. Men and women have always looked towards peace with hope and longing, ever opposed to violence and war and continuing to believe that in the end, peace will have the last word. This cry raised up by those thirsting for peace is heard by God, since God is the God of men, a God who answers our invocation. Peace is one of his names (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33). Shalom, peace, is an ancient promise, a promise we find again in both the Old and New Testaments.

Peace does not mean simply the silence of weapons. Peace is an order willed by God for all things, a world where men and women live together without violence, in freedom and happiness. Peace means peace in the universe, peace between nations, peace within a population, peace in the depths of the heart. The Bible concludes with the world vision where God will "wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain" (Revelation 21:4).

The New Testament announces to us this hope of peace that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. "For he is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14). Christ founded peace and nailed hatred, violence and hostility on the Cross. He underwent violence in his own body but did not respond with violence, praying instead for those persecuting him. He entrusted his disciples with the responsibility to be, like him, peacemakers (cf. Matthew 5:9).

We cannot regain unity by our own unaided efforts. This is why Jesus has left us his peace. He has infused his Spirit into our hearts: not the spirit of this world, but the spirit of peace, justice, reconciliation, docility and charity, the spirit which transforms our egoism and selfishness and makes us new men and women, persons in whose hearts the peace of Christ joyfully reigns (cf. Colossians 3:15). As men and women who have been given peace, we Christians must be ambassadors, witnesses, pioneers of peace in this world.

Unite to heal schism

3. Dear brothers and sisters, faced with the urgency of this message of peace, our heart fills with sorrow and shame, since the images that our world -- and even our Churches -- send us are much different. Our Churches are divided and down through history, their example, rather than being mutual and in favour of peace, has been one of opposition.

Each time that we Catholics say, at the moment of the Eucharistic celebration before Communion, "Peace be with you," we earnestly add: "Look not upon our sins." This also means: Do not look upon the sin of schism, the scandal of separation. And we all have reason to ask: "Give us unity and peace."

This prayer at the center of the Eucharistic celebration has already grown in my heart for many years. It is for me the prayer for Christian unity. Day after day, especially Sunday after Sunday, it is pronounced by a large number of Christians worldwide. For this, it cannot be recited in vain, it cannot go unheard. By reciting this prayer, we unite ourselves to Jesus' own prayer to the Father on the eve of his death, "that they may all be one" (John 17:21). Jesus pronounces this prayer before us, with us, for us.

True spirit of Christian hope

4. Thus, united in prayer with Christ, we are able to welcome the consoling words of the Gospel: "Do not let your hearts be troubled." These ...

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