Pope: Christian Unity Week Calls to Renewal

Urges Greater Effort in Responding to Christ

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Christians should respond to Christ’s urgent appeal for unity in his Church, and this is a good week to make that response more generous, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today by dedicating his reflection at the weekly general audience to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, under way through Sunday.

The Holy Father recalled that Christ prayed for the unity of his disciples no less than four times in the Upper Room.

«This is a unity that can only grow in the example of the surrender of the Son to the Father, that is, going out of oneself and uniting oneself to Christ,» he said. «Twice, moreover, in this prayer, Jesus adds as the objective of this union: that the world may believe. Full unity is connected, therefore with the life and the very mission of the Church in the world.»

The Pontiff said that working toward this unity is «our responsibility: that the gift of unity be visible for the world, in virtue of which our faith is made credible. For this, it is important that each Christian community become aware of the urgency of working in every way possible to reach this grand objective.

«Only going out of ourselves and toward Christ, only in this relationship with him can we come to be truly united among ourselves. This is the invitation that, with the present week [of prayer], is directed to believers in Christ of every Church and ecclesial community; to him, dear brothers and sisters, we should respond with generosity.»

A prophecy

Benedict XVI dedicated part of his reflection to a consideration of the theme chosen for this year’s week of prayer: «That They May Become One in Your Hand» (Ezekiel 37:17).

«In the passage of the book of the prophet Ezekiel from which the theme has been taken,» the Pope explained, «the Lord orders the prophet to take two sticks, one as a symbol of Judah and his tribes and the other as a symbol of Joseph and of the whole house of Israel united to him, and he asks him to ‘join’ the two such that they form ‘just one stick’ in his hand.»

He continued: «The parable of unity is transparent. To the ‘sons of the people’ who ask explanation, Ezekiel, enlightened from on high, will say that the Lord himself takes the two sticks and joins them, such that the two kingdoms with their respective tribes, divided among themselves, become ‘one in your hand.’ The hand of the prophet, which joins the two shoots, is considered as the hand of God himself that gathers and unites his people and finally, the whole of humanity. […]

«In the second part of the biblical reading, the meaning and the conditions for the unity of the various tribes in just one kingdom are considered in depth. In the dispersion among the Gentiles, the Israelites had learned erroneous cults, had assimilated mistaken concepts of life, had taken on customs foreign to divine law. Now the Lord declares that they will no longer be contaminated with idols from the pagan peoples, with their abominations, with all of their iniquities. He reclaims the need to liberate them from sin, to purify their heart.»


The Holy Father said that Ezekiel’s vision is «particularly eloquent for the whole ecumenical movement because it makes clear the unavoidable demand of an authentic interior renewal in every component of the People of God, which only the Lord can bring about.»

He contended that «we too should be open to this renewal, because we too, dispersed among the peoples of the world, have learned customs very far from the Word of God.»

Citing the decree from the Second Vatican Council Unitatis Redintegratio, the Pontiff affirmed that there «can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart.»

«The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,» he said, «becomes for all of us, in this way, a stimulant toward a sincere conversion and an ever more docile listening to the Word of God, toward an ever deeper faith.»

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