.- With the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity beginning on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI took a break from his series of catecheses on the Apostles and early Saints of the Church to speak on the theme of unity. The Holy Father said, before the 6,000 plus pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI Auditorium, that Christians should not be discouraged by the long and difficult road to unity, because the journey is supported by Christ.
"Unity," said the Pope, "is a gift from God and the fruit of the action of His Spirit. For this reason it is important to pray. The closer we draw to Christ, converting ourselves to His love, the closer we also draw to one another."
The Holy Father recalled the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, taken from the Gospel of St. Mark: "He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." This phrase, he explained "by highlighting two aspects of the mission of each Christian community - announcing the Gospel and giving witness of charity - also underlines how important it is to translate Christ's message into real initiatives of solidarity. This advances the journey towards unity because ... all relief Christians together bring to their fellows, however small, also contributes to making their communion more visible."
"The road to unity remains long and difficult, but we must not be discouraged, and continue our journey, relying on the sure support of Christ" said the Pope. He also noted how he’s had the opportunity to see firsthand, over years of meetings with representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities, "and in a particularly moving way, during my recent visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul, how deeply felt the desire for unity is.”
“That experience and others like it, have brought hope to my heart," the Pope said of his recent meeting with the head of the Eastern Orthodox Communion.
The Pope mentioned the fact that today, in some countries, is the Day for Dialogue between Jews and Christians, and he recalled some high points in the "mutual friendship" between the two communities, such as the Second Vatican Council and John Paul II's visit to the synagogue of Rome in April 1986.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will come to an end on January 25 with the celebration of Vespers presided by the Holy Father in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, in the presence of representatives from other Churches and Christian communities.