Pope's Address to Ecumenical Colloquium of Religious Men and Women

«Religious life shows us precisely that this unity is not the fruit of our efforts: unity is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who brings about unity in diversity.»

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Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Ecumenical Colloquium of Religious Men and Women, promoted and organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated life.

The following is a translation of the Pope’s address to the participants in the meeting.

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Dear Cardinals,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I give you my cordial welcome and thank Cardinal Braz de Aviz for the words he addressed to me on behalf of all. I rejoice that this initiative has brought together religious men and women from different Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to which I give my warm greeting. It is particularly significant that your meeting takes place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Every year it reminds us that spiritual ecumenism is the soul of the ecumenical movement,” as the Conciliar Decree Unitatis Redintegratio stressed (n. 8), of which we recently observed the 50th anniversary.

I would like to share some thoughts with you on the importance of consecrated life for Christian unity.

The will to re-establish the unity of all Christians is naturally present in all the Churches and it concerns both the clergy and the laity (Cf. Ibid., 5). However, religious life, which sinks its roots in the will of Christ and in the common tradition of the undivided Church, has without a doubt a particular vocation in the promotion of this unity. On the other hand, it is not the case that numerous pioneers of ecumenism were consecrated men and women. Still, several religious communities dedicate themselves intensely to this objective and are privileged places of encounter between Christians of different traditions. In this context, I would also like to mention ecumenical communities, such as that of Taize and of Bose, both present at this Colloquium. It belongs to religious life to seek union with God and unity within the fraternal community, thus realizing in an exemplary way the Lord’s prayer: “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).

Your meeting took place in the Augustinianum Institute of Patristics. Saint Augustine begins his Rule with the following, particularly eloquent, affirmation: “The essential motive for your coming together is that you live unanimously in the house and have only one soul and one heart stretched out to God” (I, 3). Religious life shows us precisely that this unity is not the fruit of our efforts: unity is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who brings about unity in diversity. He also reveals to us that this unity can only be brought about if we walk together, if we follow the way of fraternity in love, in service and in mutual hospitality.

There is no unity without conversion. Religious life reminds us that at the center of all search for unity and, therefore, of every ecumenical effort, is first of all conversion of heart, which entails the request and the granting of forgiveness. To a great extent it consists in a conversion of our look itself: to seek to look at one another in God, and to be able to place oneself also in the other’s point of view: here is a twofold challenge linked with the search for unity, whether within the religious communities or between Christians of different traditions.

There is no unity without prayer. Religious life is a school of prayer. The ecumenical commitment responds, in the first place, to the prayer of the Lord Jesus himself, and it is based essentially on prayer. One of the pioneers of ecumenism and great promoter of the Unity Octave, Father Paul Couturier, used an image that illustrates well the bond between ecumenism and religious life: he compared all those who pray for unity, and the ecumenical movement in general, to an “invisible monastery” that gathers Christians of different Churches, of different countries and continents. Dear brothers and sisters, you are the first leaders of this “invisible monastery”: I encourage you to pray for Christian unity and to translate this prayer in your daily attitudes and gestures.

There is no unity without holiness of life. Religious life helps us to be aware of the call addressed to all the baptized: the call to holiness of life, which is the only true path to unity. It is evidenced with incisive words in the Conciliar Decree Unitatis Redintegratio:”May all the faithful remember that, the more they promote, rather live in practice the unity of Christians, the more they will take care to live a life in greater conformity with the Gospel. In fact, the closer their communion is with the Father, with the Word and with the Holy Spirit, the more profoundly and easily they will be able to render mutual fraternity” (n. 7).

Dear brothers and sisters, in expressing my gratitude to you for the witness that you render with your life to the Gospel and for the service you offer to the cause of unity, I ask the Lord to bless your ministry abundantly and to inspire you to work tirelessly for peace and reconciliation between all the Churches and Christian Communities. I ask you, please, to pray for me and bless you from my heart. We ask the Lord for a blessing, each one praying in his own language the Lord’s prayer.

[Recitation of the Our Father]

May the Lord bless you all.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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