On a Fault Disfiguring the Countenance of the Church

“The injury to her visible unity”

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Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the liturgy proposes the Gospel passage about the wedding at Cana, an episode narrated by John, an eye witness of the event. This episode is part of this Sunday that immediately follows the Christmas season because, together with the visit of the Magi from the east and with Jesus’ baptism, it forms the trilogy of the epiphany, that is, of the manifestation of Christ. The manifestation at the wedding at Cana is, in fact, “the first of the signs” (John 2:11), that is, the first miracle performed by Jesus, with which he publicly manifested his glory, awakening the faith of his disciples. Let us briefly recall what happened at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee. It happened that the wine had run out, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, pointed this out to her Son. He told her that his hour had not yet come; but then followed Mary’s intervention and, six large stone jars being filled with water, he transformed the water into wine, an excellent wine, better than the wine that had been served earlier. With this “sign” Jesus revealed himself as the messianic bridegroom, come to establish the new and eternal Covenant with his people, according to the words of the prophets: “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). And the wine is the symbol of this joy of love; but it also alludes to the blood that Jesus will pour out at the end to seal the nuptial pact with humanity.

The Church is the bride of Christ, who makes her holy and beautiful with his grace. Nevertheless, this bride, made up of human beings, is always in need of purification. And one of the gravest faults that disfigures the countenance of the Church is the injury to her visible unity, in particular the historical divisions that have separated Christians and that have not yet been overcome. Precisely at this time, from January 18 to 25, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed, a time that is always welcome to believers and to communities, which reawakens in everyone the desire and spiritual commitment to full communion. In this sense the prayer service that I was able to celebrate with thousands of young people from all over Europe and with the ecumenical community of Taizé in this piazza was very significant: it was a moment of grace in which we experienced the beauty of being one in Christ. I encourage everyone to pray together so that we can realize “what the Lord requires of us” (Micah 6:8), which is the theme of this year’s Week; it was a theme proposed by some communities in India, which invites us to move decisively toward visible unity and to overcome, as brothers of Christ, every type of unjust discrimination. Next Friday at the conclusion of these days of prayer, I will preside at Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in the presence of representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities.

Dear friends, once more to the prayer for Christian unity I would like to add a prayer for peace so that, in the various conflicts now going on, the slaughter of civilians cease and all violence end, and the courage for dialogue and negotiation be found. For both of these intentions let us invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the mediatrix of grace.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. In these days, we are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Let us join our prayers to those of our brothers and sisters of all Churches and communities, that we may dedicate ourselves ever more earnestly to working towards our visible unity in Jesus Christ. God bless you and your loved ones!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you. Have a good Sunday!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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