Pope Says Christian Unity is a Priority for His Pontificate

Asks That Christians Face Challenges and Difficulties on Path

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Asserting that ecumenical unity is one of the priorities of his pontificate, John Paul II appealed to Christians on Saturday to avoid all “resignation” in the face of difficulties on the path to full communion.

The Holy Father made his appeal on Saturday afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica, during the celebration of vespers on the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Vatican II’s decree “Unitatis Redintegratio ” (The Restoration of Unity).

“The application of this conciliar decree, desired by my predecessor, Blessed John XXIII and promulgated by Pope Paul VI, has been, from the beginning, one of the priorities of my pontificate,” the Holy Father said, who celebrated the 26th anniversary of his pontificate in October.

Argentine Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for the Vatican Secretariat of State, assisted the Pontiff by reading some of the passages of his long address written in Italian.

Vespers marked the closing of the international congress “The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican Council II, Forty Years Later,” held near Rome from Nov. 11-13 in Rocca di Papa to evaluate four decades of dialogue among Christians.

The meeting was organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and its president, Cardinal Walter Kasper, presided over the congress. An estimated 260 individuals participanted, including bishops from all over the world, 27 delegates from other Churches and Christian communities, as well as representatives of the Curia and professors of Rome’s pontifical universities.

“Ecumenical unity is not a secondary attribution of the community of disciples, and ecumenical activity is not only an appendix that is added to the traditional activity of the Church,” John Paul II stressed.

The promotion of Christian unity “responds to the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who desired only one Church and prayed to the Father, on the eve of his death, that all may be one,” he noted.

“Thank God, many differences and misunderstandings have been overcome but many stumbling blocks still remain on the long road,” the Pope said in his homily.

“Sometimes not only misunderstandings and prejudices remain but also deplorable symptoms of slowness and lack of openness of heart, and especially differences in matters of faith, that concentrate above all on the topic of the Church, her nature, her ministries,” he indicated.

“Unfortunately, we are also facing new problems, especially in the ethical field, where further divisions arise, which prevent a common testimony,” he pointed out.

“All this must not lead to resignation; on the contrary, it must be the reason for encouragement to continue and persevere in prayer and in commitment to unity,” the Pope emphasized.

“More than lamenting what is still not possible, we must give thanks and rejoice over what already exists and is possible,” he suggested.

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