On Christian Unity

Unity «Demands Our Daily Commitment»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday falls in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is celebrated from the 18th to the 25th of January. I cordially invite everyone to join themselves to the prayer that Jesus addressed to the Father on the eve of his passion: «That they may be one so that the world may believe» (John 17:21).

This year in particular our meditation during the week of prayer for unity turns to a passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians with which the motto was formed: «We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ» (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). We are called to contemplate the victory of Christ over sin and over death, that is, his resurrection, as an event that radically transforms those who believe in him and opens to them the way to an incorruptible and immortal life. Recognizing and welcoming the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ sustains Christians even in the pursuit of full unity with each other.

This year the aids for the week of prayer for unity were prepared by a Polish group. In fact, Poland has known a long history of courageous struggles against various adversities and has repeatedly given proof of great determination, animated by faith. For this reason the words of the theme mentioned above [for this week of prayer] have a resonance and special incisiveness for Poland. In the course of the centuries the Polish Christians have spontaneously intuited a spiritual dimension in their desire for freedom and understood that the true victory can occur only if it is accompanied by a profound interior transformation. They remind us that our search for unity can be conducted in a realistic manner if change first of all happens in us and if we let God act, if we let ourselves be transformed in Christ’s image, if we enter into the new life of Christ, which is the true victory. The visible unity of all Christians is always a work that comes from above, from God, a work that requires the humility to recognize our weakness and to accept the gift. However, to use the expression that Blessed Pope John Paul II repeated often, every gift also becomes a task. The unity that comes from God therefore demands our daily commitment to open ourselves up to each other in charity.

For many decades, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has constituted a central element in the Church’s ecumenical activity. The time that we dedicate to prayer for the full communion of Christ’s disciples permits us to understand more deeply how we will be transformed by his victory, by the power of his resurrection. Next Wednesday, as is customary, we will conclude the week of prayer with the solemn celebration of vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, at which representatives of the other Christian Churches and Communities will also be present. Many people will attend the gathering to renew together our prayer to the Lord, who is the source of unity. We entrust it now, with filial confidence, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

[Following the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the faithful in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

In these days various countries of the Far East celebrate with joy the lunar new year. In the present situation of global financial and social crisis I wish for all these peoples that the new year be concretely marked by justice and peace, that it bring relief to those who are suffering, and that young people especially, with their enthusiasm and idealistic drive, might offer a new hope to the world.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. This week, Christians throughout the world mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are confident that, as Saint Paul says, «We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ» (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Let us renew our prayer for the unity of all of Christ’s followers, and deepen our resolve to be one in him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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