Presiding over an ecumenical celebration on Friday evening at Westminster Abbey, Pope Benedict XVI noted that faith and fidelity to Christ will lead Christians to unity.
The Holy Father presided over the celebration with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Delegates from all of the major Christian churches of England were present for the prayerful occasion in the enormous Gothic abbey church.
The Holy Father told those present that there were two reasons for his pilgrimage to the abbey: "to pray before the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor and to join you in imploring the gift of Christian unity."
Calling the impressive effect of the abbey a powerful reminder of the Christian faith that "shaped the unity and culture of Europe and the heart and spirit of the English people, he said: "Here too, we are forcibly reminded that what we share, in Christ, is greater than what continues to divide us."
After giving thanks for the "remarkable progress" in ecumenical relations since the modern movement began a century ago, he said that despite the advances, "much yet remains to be done."
Noting challenges in spreading the Word to an increasingly diverse world filled with indifference, or even hostility to the Gospel message, he said, "we are all the more compelled to give a joyful and convincing account of the hope that is within us ..."
The Church's unity, he said, "in a word, can never be other than a unity in the apostolic faith, in the faith entrusted to each new member of the Body of Christ during the rite of Baptism.
"It is this faith which unites us to the Lord, makes us sharers in his Holy Spirit, and thus, even now, sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity …”
Entrusting the challenges, blessings, disappointments and signs of hope along the path to improved unity to God, he expressed his confidence that established relations and hope would continue to "provide strength and direction as we persevere on our common journey.
"At the same time," though, Benedict XVI added, "with evangelical realism, we must also recognize the challenges which confront us, not only along the path of Christian unity, but also in our task of proclaiming Christ in our day.
"Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age."
This, he said, was his encouragement given in fidelity to his own ministry of "particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock."
In conclusion, he prayed that the model of St. Bede the Venerable would guide Christians to rediscovery and fidelity.