“Christian unity is an essential requirement of our faith, a requirement that springs from the intimacy of our being as believers in Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis affirmed today as he received in audience participants in the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which is on the theme “Christian unity: what model for full communion?”
During the audience Francis also referred to the important ecumenical meetings he has attended throughout the year, both in Rome and during his apostolic trips. which enabled him to confirm that the desire for communion, one of his main concerns, is living and intense.
“We wish to live unity, because we wish to follow Christ, to live His love, to benefit from the mystery of His being one with the Father, which is the essence of divine love. … According to Jesus’ priestly prayer, what we yearn for is unity in the love of the Father, which comes to us as a gift in Jesus Christ, love that also informs thought and doctrines,” he said.
The Pope said that agreement on how we understand the Gospel is not enough, because there must be union in Christ.
“It is our personal and community conversion, our gradual conformation to Him, our living increasingly in Him, that enables us to grow in communion between us,” he said, adding that this communion is the “soul that also supports sessions of study and every other type of effort to arrive at more closely aligned points of view.”
The Pope went on to list some “false models” of communion.
— Unity is not the fruit of our human efforts or the product constructed by ecclesiastical diplomacy, but is instead “a gift that comes from on high.” From this point of view, Francis said, unity is a journey rather than a destination.
— Unity is not uniformity. “The different theological, liturgical, spiritual and canonical traditions which have developed in the Christian world, when they are genuinely rooted in the apostolic tradition, are a wealth for and not a threat to the unity of the Church. Seeking to suppress this diversity is to counter the Holy Spirit, Who acts by enriching the community of believers with a variety of gifts.”
— Unity is not absorption. “Christian unity does not lead to a ‘reverse ecumenism,’ for which one would have to deny their own history of faith; neither does it tolerate proselytism, which is instead poisonous to the path of ecumenism. Before seeing what separates us, it is necessary to perceive also in an existential way the wealth of what we have in common, such as the Sacred Scripture and the great professions of faith of the first ecumenical Councils. In this way, we Christians are able to acknowledge we are brothers and sisters who believe in the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, committed together to finding the way of obeying today the word of God, Who wants us to be united”.
Pope Francis concluded by reiterating that Ecumenism is true when it is able to move attention away from itself, from its own arguments and formulations, to the Word of God that demands to be heard, welcomed and witnessed in the world. Therefore, the various Christian communities are called not to compete with one another, but to collaborate.
“My recent visit to Lund,” he said, “reminded me of the relevance of the ecumenical principle formulated there by the World Council of Churches in 1952, which recommends that Christians ‘should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately.'”