Pope: Christian Unity Will Take More Than Kindness

Calls for Conversion at Personal and Community Level

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The path to Christian unity requires more than being nice to each other and cooperating, says Benedict XVI. Full and visible unity will require transformation and being conformed to the image of Christ.

The Pope said this today as he dedicated his weekly general audience to the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today. 

The annual celebration is held in the Northern hemisphere in the week leading up to the feast of the conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25), while in the Southern hemisphere, it is generally marked around the feast of Pentecost.

“The full and visible unity of Christians for which we long demands that we allow ourselves to be ever more perfectly transformed and conformed to the image of Christ,” the Holy Father stated. “The unity for which we pray requires interior conversion, both communal and personal. It is not simply a matter of kindness and cooperation; above all, we must strengthen our faith in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, who has spoken to us and who made himself one of us; we must enter into new life in Christ, which is our true and definitive victory; we must open ourselves to one another, cultivating all the elements of that unity that God has preserved for us and gives to us ever anew; we must feel the urgency of bearing witness before the men of our times to the living God, who made himself known in Christ.’

The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer is “We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” and the texts for reflection and meditation were prepared by ecumenical groups in Poland.

Essential

The Holy Father reflected on the Church’s commitment to ecumenism, “The Second Vatican Council put the ecumenical pursuit at the center of the Church’s life and work,” he said. 

He cited John Paul II, who referred to unity, not as “something added on, but [which] stands at the very heart of Christ’s mission. … [I]t belongs to the very essence of this community.”

Benedict XVI affirmed, “The ecumenical task is therefore a responsibility of the whole Church and of all the baptized, who must make the partial, already existing communion between Christians grow into full communion in truth and charity. Therefore, prayer for unity is not limited to this Week of Prayer but rather must become an integral part of our prayer, of the life of prayer of all Christians, in every place and in every time, especially when people of different traditions meet and work together for the victory, in Christ, over all that is sin, evil, injustice, and that violates human dignity.”

The Pontiff noted the “clear recognition” that the lack of unity jeopardizes Christians’ credibility and “prevents the Gospel from being proclaimed more effectively.”

“How can we give a convincing witness if we are divided?” he asked. “Certainly, as regards the fundamental truths of the faith, much more unites us than divides us. But divisions remain, and they concern even various practical and ethical questions — causing confusion and distrust, and weakening our ability to hand on Christ’s saving Word.”

The Bishop of Rome stressed, however, that only Christ is “capable of transforming us and changing us — from being weak and hesitant — to being strong and courageous in working for good. Only he can save us from the negative consequences of our divisions.”

Thus, the Pope invited the faithful to “be more intensely united in prayer during this Week for Unity, so that common witness, solidarity and collaboration may grow among Christians, as we await the glorious day when together we may profess the faith handed down by the Apostles, and together celebrate the Sacraments of our transformation in Christ.”

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-34139?l=english

On the Net:

Materials for prayer week:  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayer-doc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20110414_week-prayer-2012_en.html

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