The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated every year from January 18 to 25, provided the main theme of Benedict XVI's reflections prior to praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.
The Pope explained how the Prayer Week initiative had begun in the early years of the twentieth century and has now become "an ecumenical point of reference in which Christians from various confessions all over the world pray and reflect, on the basis of a single biblical text." He went on to recall how this year's theme comes from the Gospel of Matthew: "If two or three of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
The Pope continued: "How much faith and how much hope do these words of the Lord Jesus infuse! In particular, they encourage Christians to ask God together for that full unity among them, for which Christ Himself... prayed to the Father during the Last Supper. It is easy to understand, then, why we Christians invoke the gift of unity. If we do so with faith, we may be sure that our request will be satisfied. We do not know how, nor when, because it is not for us to know these things, but we must not doubt that one day we will be 'a single thing,' just as Jesus and the Father are united in the Holy Spirit.
"Prayer for unity," he said, "constitutes the soul of the ecumenical movement, which... is developing throughout the world. Of course, there is no shortage of difficulties and trials, but even these are not without spiritual benefits because they encourage us to exercise patience and perseverance, and to grow in fraternal charity. God is love, and only by converting to Him and accepting His Word will we find ourselves united in the single mystical Body of Christ."
"The expression God is love, which in Latin is Deus caritas est," Benedict XVI concluded, "is the title of my first Encyclical, which will be published this Wednesday, January 25, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I am pleased that it coincides with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. That day I will go to the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls to preside at Vespers in which representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities will also participate."
After praying the Angelus, the Pope mentioned the situation of African countries, in particular Cote d'Ivoire "where serious tension persists among the various social and political groups of the country. To everyone I address an appeal to continue with constructive dialogue, with a view to reconciliation and peace. I entrust these intentions to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, so much beloved by the people of the Cote d'Ivoire."
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