Exhortation for Christian-Unity Week

«An Expression of That ‘Inner Conversion'»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

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1. Yesterday began the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. They are extremely opportune days of reflection and prayer to remind Christians that the restoration of full unity among them, according to the will of Jesus, involves every baptized person, both pastors as well as the faithful (see «Unitatis Redintegratio,» No. 5).

The Week takes place months after the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s decree «Unitatis Redintegratio,» a key text which has placed the Catholic Church firmly and irrevocably in the line of the ecumenical movement.

2. This year, the theme presents a fundamental truth to us for all ecumenical commitment, namely, that Christ is the foundation of the Church. The Council strongly recommended prayer for unity as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement (see «Unitatis Redintegratio,» No. 8). Given that the reconciliation of Christians surpasses «human powers and capacities» (ibid., 24), prayer gives expression to hope that does not disappoint, to trust in the Lord who makes all things new (see Romans 5:5; Revelation 21:5). But prayer must be accompanied by purification of the mind, the feelings and the memory. Thus it becomes an expression of that «inner conversion,» without which there is no true ecumenism (see ibid., 7). In a word, unity is a gift of God, a gift to be tirelessly implored with humility and truth.

3. The desire for unity is spreading and deepening, touching new environments and contexts, arousing fervor for works, initiatives and reflections. Recently the Lord has also enabled his disciples to engage in important contacts of dialogue and collaboration. The pain of separation is felt with ever-greater intensity, given the challenges of a world that awaits a clear and unanimous evangelical testimony on the part of all believers in Christ.

4. As usual, in Rome the Week will conclude with the celebration of vespers, on Jan. 25, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. I thank the Lord Cardinal Walter Kasper, who will represent me in that liturgical meeting, in which representatives of other Christian Churches and confessions will take part. I will unite myself spiritually, and I also ask you to pray so that the whole family of believers may attain as soon as possible the full communion desired by Christ.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, one of the Pope’s aides read the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday, the Church began its Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, dedicated to reflection and prayer on the need for all the baptized to work for the restoration of full Christian unity, according to the desire of the Lord Jesus. This year’s theme is «Christ, the Only Foundation of the Church.» May our prayers be accompanied by a purification of the mind and heart, that «inner conversion» without which there is no true ecumenism.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s audience. I greet particularly the members of the Servite Secular Institute and the groups from Scotland, Finland, Australia and the United States of America. Wishing you a pleasant and fruitful stay in Rome, I cordially invoke upon you the joy and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I wish you all a happy New Year!

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