As the Church continues to celebrate The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Benedict told thousands of listeners, gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly Angelus Sunday, that prayer must constitute the soul of the entire ecumenical movement.
The Week of Prayer, which is being celebrated from January 18th to the 25th, was born at the beginning of the last century.
Benedict explained that now, the Prayer Week has become "an ecumenical point of reference in which Christians from various confessions all over the world pray and reflect, on the basis of a single biblical text."
He went on to speak on this year's theme, which is taken from the Gospel of Matthew: "If two or three of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
"How much faith and how much hope”, reflected the Holy Father, “do these words of the Lord Jesus infuse!”
“In particular,” he said, “they encourage Christians to ask God together for that full unity among them, for which Christ Himself ... prayed to the Father during the Last Supper.”
He said that “It is easy to understand, then, why we Christians invoke the gift of unity. ... If we do so with faith, we may be sure that our request will be satisfied. We do not know how, nor when, because it is not for us to know these things, but we must not doubt that one day we will be 'a single thing,' just as Jesus and the Father are united in the Holy Spirit.”
"Prayer for unity," the Pope continued, "constitutes the soul of the ecumenical movement, which ... is developing throughout the world.”
He pointed out that “there is no shortage of difficulties and trials,” but said that “even these are not without spiritual benefits because they encourage us to exercise patience and perseverance, and to grow in fraternal charity.”
“God is love,” he stressed, “and only by converting to Him and accepting His Word will we find ourselves united in the single mystical Body of Christ."
Pope Benedict said that "The expression 'God is love,' which in Latin is 'Deus caritas est',” is the title of his first papal Encyclical, due to be published Wednesday, January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
He said that he was “pleased that it coincides with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. That day I will go to the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls to preside at Vespers in which representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities will also participate."