Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Concludes with Vespers

Pope Francis Celebrates with Representatives of Various Christian Communities of Rome

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Pope Francis renewed his prayer for unity among Christian faiths at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The event, which reflected on the theme “Is Christ divided?”, closed with the celebration of Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Present at the event were the leaders of many Christian communities in Rome.

In his homily, the Holy Father began by reflecting on the context of the theme, where Paul addresses the divisions between the Christian communities of Corinth.

“Some claimed: ‘I belong to Paul’; while others claimed: ‘I belong to Apollos’ or ‘I belong to Cepha’», and others yet claimed: ‘I belong to Christ’”, the Pope recalled.

“The particular experience of each individual, or an attachment to certain significant persons in the community, had become a yardstick for judging the faith of others.”

St. Paul’s appeal for a perfect union of mind and purpose, the Pope said, cannot be the fruit of human strategies, but rather, from “looking to the mind and heart of Christ.”

Referring to the current divisions that exists in today’s world, Pope Francis said that it is becoming more evident that they cannot be viewed any longer as something natural. Divisions wound the Body of Christ and impede the witness Christians are called to give in the world.

Drawing from the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, the 77 year old Pontiff stressed that the divisions have wounded all, while becoming a source of scandal to the world.

“We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to become a cause of scandal. And so we are all journeying together, fraternally, on the road towards unity, bringing about unity even as we walk; that unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences,” he said. “The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path of unity.”

During his homily, the Pope greeted the members of the various Churches and Ecclesial communities present at the event, including Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and Archbishop David Moxon, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See. The Holy Father said that he, alongside the two representatives, prayed before the tomb of St. Paul to advance toward the path of unity and love.

“Unity will not come about as a miracle at the very end,” the Pope concluded.

“Rather, unity comes about in journeying; the Holy Spirit does this on the journey. If we do not walk together, if we do not pray for one another, if we do not collaborate in the many ways that we can in this world for the People of God, then unity will not come about!”

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