VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Prayer is the “royal door” of ecumenism, Benedict XVI said on the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to members of a Catholic-Lutheran pilgrimage from Finland.
The Pope addressed the delegation today in the Vatican, who are in Rome for an annual visit on the occasion of the feast of St. Henrik, patron of Finland, which is celebrated Saturday.
The group, sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and led by Lutheran Archbishop Kari Makinen of Turku and Catholic Bishop Józef Wróbel of Helsinki, coincided with the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
“Christian unity,” the Holy Father said in his address in English, “is a gift from above, stemming from and growing towards loving communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The joint prayer of Lutherans and Catholics from Finland is a humble but faithful sharing in the prayer of Jesus, who promised that every prayer raised to the Father in His name would be heard.”
“This indeed,” he added, “is the royal door of ecumenism: Such prayer leads us to look at the Kingdom of God and the unity of the Church in a fresh way; it reinforces our bonds of communion; and it enables us to face courageously the painful memories, social burdens and human weaknesses that are so much a part of our divisions.”
Fruits of dialogue
After recalling that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today on the theme of “pray without ceasing,” Benedict XVI said: “We must be grateful for the fruits of the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue in Finland and Sweden concerning central matters of the Christian faith, including the question of justification in the life of the Church.”
He continued: “May the ongoing dialogue lead to practical results in actions which express and build up our unity in Christ and therefore strengthen relationships between Christians.”
The Pope recalled how last year marked the 450th anniversary of the death of the theologian Mikael Agricola, who translated the Bible into Finnish. “This occasion emphasized anew the importance of Scripture for the Church, for individual Christians and for the whole of society,” as well as “for our ecumenical journey.”
“Dear friends,” the Holy Father said, “it is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will bring you much joy as you recall the witness of the first Christians, and particularly the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the founding apostles of the Church of Rome.
“St. Henrik followed in their footsteps, bringing the Gospel message and its saving power to the lives of the Nordic peoples. In the new and challenging circumstances of Europe today, and within your own country, there is much that Lutherans and Catholics can do together in the service of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”