Thursday, January 21, 2010
Pope Promotes Christian Unity
Pictures courtesy of Daylife
VATICAN CITY, 20 JAN 2010 (VIS) - Before his general audience, held this morning in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI blessed a marble state of St. Rafaela Maria Porras y Ayllon, foundress of the Sisters Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which has been positioned in a niche in the external wall of the Vatican Basilica.
The theme of the papal catechesis in today's audience was the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is currently being celebrated and which, the Holy Father noted, invites us to pray to the Lord for "the visible unity of all Christians", because unity is "first and foremost a gift of God".
He then remarked how the theme chosen for this year's Week - "you are witnesses of these things" - raises two questions: "what are these things?" and: "how can we be witnesses of these things?". The answer to the first question is "the mystery of the Passion and the gift of the Resurrection", said the Pope. "By knowing Christ we know the face of God. ... In Christ, the distant God becomes close". As for the second question, he explained that "we can only be witnesses of Christ, ... by knowing Him personally, ... and truly meeting Him in our life of faith, and thus we can contribute to the novelty of the world, to eternal life".
"The modern ecumenical movement has undergone such considerable development in the last century as to become an important element in the life of the Church. ... It not only favours fraternal relations between Churches and ecclesial communities, in response to the commandment to love, ... but also stimulates theological research. Furthermore, it involves the real life of Churches and ecclesial communities, with themes that concern pastoral care and sacramental life".
"Since Vatican Council II the Catholic Church has forged fraternal relations with all the Churches of the East and ecclesial communities of the West. In particular, with most of them, she has established bilateral theological dialogue that has been able to find points of convergence, even consensus, on various matters, thus strengthening our bonds of communion. Over the last twelvemonth, the various dialogues have made important progress".
Turning then to refer specifically to "the study of a crucial theme in dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox: 'the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium'", a study which will subsequently "also extend to the second millennium", the Holy Father recalled how he had asked Catholics to pray "for this delicate dialogue which is so essential for the entire ecumenical movement".
The Holy Father likewise referred to such events as "the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which Catholics and Lutherans celebrated together on 31 October 2009", and "the visit to Rome of Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, ... who held discussions on the situation currently facing the Anglican Communion. The joint commitment to continue dialogue is a positive sign, an expression of how intense the desire for unity is, despite the obstacles that stand in its way", said the Pope.
And he went on: "Ecumenical work is not a linear process, the old problems that arose in another age lose their importance, giving way to problems and difficulties of our own time. For this reason we must always be willing to accept a process of purificationm, through which the Lord makes us capable of unity".
The Holy Father concluded by asking people "to pray for the complex question of ecumenism, for the promotion of dialogue, and that the Christians of our time may show the world a shared witness of faithfulness to Christ".