VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before praying the midday Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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1. “My peace I give to you.” These words of Jesus, taken from the Gospel of John (see 14:27), constitute the theme of the annual Week pf Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today. It is significant that the theme was proposed by the churches of the Middle East, where unity and peace are the most acutely felt priorities.
During the next eight days, in every part of the world, Christians of various confessions and traditions will gather to pray intensely to the Lord, to reinforce their common commitment to full unity. They will do so precisely from the richness of meaning contained in the promise of Christ, meditating, day by day, on the evangelical gift of peace and on the efforts the latter entails.
2. In promising his peace, Christ assured his disciples of support in trials. And is not, perhaps, the persistent division among Christians a painful trial? This is why they feel acutely the need to turn to their only Lord, so that he will help them to overcome the temptation to discouragement in the difficult path that leads to full communion.
In fact, in a world thirsty for peace, it is urgent that the Christian communities proclaim the Gospel unanimously. It is indispensable that they witness the divine Love that unites them, and that they be bearers of joy, hope and peace, becoming leaven of new humanity.
3. It is my heartfelt wish that this Week of Prayer bear copious fruits for the cause of Christian unity. May it be a propitious occasion for those who believe in Christ to exchange a fraternal embrace, in the peace of the Lord. May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, obtain this gift for us.
[Translation by ZENIT]