Last evening at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict closed the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a vespers reflection on the profound need for Christian unity in order to effectively spread the Gospel and Christ’s message of salvation throughout the world
The theme for the week has been: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Speaking to a large crowd, the Holy Father said that "the aspiration of all Christian communities and of each individual faithful to unity, and the strength to achieve it, are gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
He added that this aspiration goes “hand in hand with an ever more profound and radical faithfulness to the Gospel. We realize that conversion of heart lies at the base of ecumenical commitment."
The Pope also noted his new Encyclical--released yesterday and titled, "Deus caritas est," or “God is Love,” saying that “Upon this firm rock the entire faith of the Church rests.”
“Fixing our gaze on this truth, the peak of divine revelation,” he added, “divisions, while maintaining their painful magnitude, appear surmountable and do not discourage us."
"True love," he explained, "does not cancel legitimate differences, but harmonizes them into a higher unity, one that is not imposed from outside, but that from within gives form, so to say, to the whole."
Pope Benedict told the crowd that "the longed-for achievement of unity depends, in the first instance, upon the will of God, Whose design and generosity surpass man's understanding, even exceeding his requests and expectations.”
“By relying on divine goodness,” he said, “we intensify our common prayer for unity, which is a necessary and highly effective instrument."
“Unity”, the Pope concluded, “is our shared mission; it is the condition necessary for the light of Christ to spread more effectively all over the world, that men and women may be converted and saved."
Noting soberly, that much remains to be done in building this unity, he added: "Let us not lose faith, rather let us resume the journey with greater energy. Christ goes before us and accompanies us. We rely upon His unfailing presence; from Him we implore, humbly and tirelessly, the precious gift of unity and peace."