End of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

«Demanding Priority of My Ministry,» Says John Paul II

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before praying the Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The address was in Italian.

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1. Today, feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, ends the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, during which, in every corner of the earth, Christians have prayed together so that their full communion will be realized according to the will of Lord. «Ut unum sint — that they may all be one» (John 17:21). Jesus’ ardent invocation in the Cenacle continues to remind Christian communities that unity is a gift that must be received and developed ever more profoundly.

2. The unity of Christians has been a constant desire of my pontificate and it continues to be a demanding priority of my ministry. In the apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte,» at the end of the Jubilee, I wished to remind that Christ’s yearning is «a binding imperative, the strength that sustains us, and a salutary rebuke for our slowness and closed-heartedness» (No. 48).

Therefore, let us never lessen our commitment to pray for unity and to seek it incessantly! Obstacles, difficulties, and even misunderstandings and failures, cannot and must not discourage us, as «confidence in reaching, also in history, the full and visible communion of all Christians» rests not on our human capacities, but on the prayer of our common Lord (ibid.).

3. We now confidently invoke Mary, Mother of Christ and the Church, so that she will support and accompany us on the ecumenical path.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]

This afternoon, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the traditional ecumenical celebration of the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will take place. I invite everyone to be joined spiritually to this important moment of communion.

Today is World Leprosy Day and my thoughts go to all those who still suffer from Hansen’s disease. While I invite you to pray for them and for those who care for them, I encourage the efforts of the international community to eradicate this illness.

Next Sunday, Pro-Life Day, will be held in Italy, and in the Diocese of Rome, Life and Family Week will begin. As of now, I invite Roman families to participate in the «Celebration of the Family and Life,» which will take place on Feb. 1 at 3:30 p.m. in the Sports Palace.

I express special greetings now to the cardinal vicar and to the children and youngsters of Rome’s Catholic Action, who have taken part in the «Caravan of Peace» from Piazza Navona to St. Peter’s Square, thus concluding the «Month of Peace.» A word of gratitude and encouragement to A-CI-ERRE for its commitment!

I greet all pilgrims present, in particular parish groups from Crispano, Pianura, Pagani and Conza della Campania.

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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