The movement toward Christian unity is not a choice for the Church but an inherent part of its life and actions, said Pope John Paul II in a message to a plenary of cardinals and bishops on ecumenical dialogue.
The pontiff told members of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity's plenary to continue on the road toward Christian unity, despite obstacles, in a spirit of intense ecumenical spirituality.
“The ecumenical journey is not an easy one,” he said in a message addressed to Walter Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
“The prospective of full communion can at times cause reactions of grief and sorrow among those who wish to accelerate the process at all costs or in those who become discouraged by the long journey still ahead,” said the Pope. As ecumenical dialogue progresses, the obstacles and difficulties become clearer, he said.
“We, however, are learning to live with humble trust this intermediary period,” he said. “We want to overcome together the contrasts and difficulties. We want to recognize the delays facing unity. We want to re-establish the desire for reconciliation where it seems threatened by suspicion and reluctance.”
Christ’s prayer and desire before his Passion was for unity among his disciples, the Pope said. Because of this, Church feels called to spend its every energy toward Christian unity.
There is no other choice but for the Church to work toward Christian unity, said the Pope. “The movement in favor of Christian unity is not only some appendix, which is added to the Church’s traditional activities,” said the pontiff. “On the contrary, it belongs organically to the Church’s life and actions.
“I am sure that the cardinals, archbishops and bishops, as well as the experts gathered at the plenary are fully aware of the urgency with which the Church has to move the full communion of all Christians forward,” he said.
The pope called the movement toward Christian unity one of the great pastoral solicitudes of his pontificate. He thanked God for the important and significant steps he has been able to make in ecumenical dialogue during his pontificate.
“Forty years after the Second Vatican Council… we can look back at the road we’ve travelled and recognize that we have completed a considerable portion and that we have entered into the very heart of the most sorrowful divisions,” said the Pope.
He also highlighted the importance of prayer in the movement of Christian unity, noting that the progress in recent years must be attributed to prayer.
Over the past years, many initiatives have been taken to promote Christian prayer. Among these initiatives the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity deserves to be particularly encouraged, said the pontiff, who again encouraged Catholics to pray daily for Christian unity.
In order to move forward on the path toward Christian unity, said the pope, there is the need for an intense ecumenical spirituality.