.- Speaking before an estimated 8,000 pilgrims gathered at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI called the Christian ecumenical movement unique from other religious dialogues and initiatives because of its common union in Christ.
He dedicated his catechesis during today's general audience to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today.
The Holy Father began by pointing out that The Week of Prayer represents "an important opportunity to reflect upon the drama of division within the Christian community and to ask, together with Jesus Himself, that 'all might be one, ... that the world may believe'."
"Prayer for the 'union of all'“, he said, “involves - in different forms, times and ways - Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, united by faith in Jesus Christ, the one Lord and Savior."
Such prayer, he added, "is part of the central nucleus that Vatican Council II called 'the soul of the whole ecumenical movement'."
Benedict said, "The elements that, despite the permanent division, still unite Christians, sustain the possibility of raising a common prayer to God. This communion in Christ upholds the entire ecumenical movement and indicates the goal of the search for unity among all Christians in the Church of Christ.”
“This”, he stressed, “distinguishes the ecumenical movement from all other initiatives of dialogue and contact with other religions and ideologies."
The Pope also called for prayers to be raised during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and during Pentecost, as an expression of "the shared commitment to re-establish the full communion of all Christians."
He noted however, that these prayers must be more that mere petition.
"We can also give thanks to the Lord for the new situation painstakingly created through ecumenical relations among Christians in their newfound brotherhood, for the strong links of solidarity that have been forged, for the growth of communion, and for the convergence, ... between various forms of dialogue.”
“The future”, he pointed out, “stands before us."
The Pope concluded his audience by calling to mind the words of his predecessor, the late John Paul II who, he said, “did and suffered so much for the ecumenical question."
Citing John Paul’s Encyclical "Ut unum sint", the Pope said that “An appreciation of how much God has already given is the condition which disposes us to receive those gifts still indispensable for bringing to completion the ecumenical work of unity."