Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during Wednesday's general audience to the subject of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today. The audience, held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, was attended by 8,000 people.
The Week of Prayer, the Pope began, represents "an important opportunity to reflect upon the drama of division within the Christian community and to ask, together with Jesus Himself, that 'all might be one, ...that the world may believe'."
"Prayer for the 'union of all' involves — in different forms, times and ways — Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, united by faith in Jesus Christ, the one Lord and Savior," said the Pope. Such prayer, he added, "is part of the central nucleus that Vatican Council II called 'the soul of the whole ecumenical movement'."
"The elements that, despite the permanent division, still unite Christians, sustain the possibility of raising a common prayer to God. This communion in Christ upholds the entire ecumenical movement and indicates the goal of the search for unity among all Christians in the Church of Christ. This distinguishes the ecumenical movement from all other initiatives of dialogue and contact with other religions and ideologies."
The Holy Father recalled how prayers raised throughout the world during this period, and during Pentecost, are also an expression of "the shared commitment to re-establish the full communion of all Christians."
However, these prayers must not simply be a petition. "We can also give thanks to the Lord for the new situation painstakingly created through ecumenical relations among Christians in their newfound brotherhood, for the strong links of solidarity that have been forged, for the growth of communion, and for the convergence, ...between various forms of dialogue. The future stands before us."
Benedict XVI concluded by recalling the words of John Paul II — "who did and suffered so much for the ecumenical question" — in his encyclical Ut unum sint: "An appreciation of how much God has already given is the condition which disposes us to receive those gifts still indispensable for bringing to completion the ecumenical work of unity."
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