.- Pope Benedict developed his catechesis at the general audience on Wednesday around the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Pope spoke of the importance of "visible unity between Christians," inviting the faithful to invoke the Lord's assistance to "develop fraternal relations and promote dialogue."
This year's Week focuses on the Bible verse, "you are witnesses of these things," which Benedict XVI meditated on through two questions: the first, "What are these things?" and the second, "How can we be witnesses of these things?"
"The mystery of the Passion and the gift of the Resurrection" are the answers to the first question, explained the Pope, who added that "by knowing Christ we know the face of God" and "in Christ, the distant becomes close."
We can be witnesses to "these things," he continued, "by knowing Him personally, ... and truly meeting Him in our life of faith, and thus we can contribute to the novelty of the world, to eternal life."
The Holy Father affirmed the evolution of the ecumenical movement in the last 100 years to its current role in promoting fraternal relations between Churches and ecclesial communities.
He also commented on the scope and success of the movement, saying, "Since Vatican Council II the Catholic Church has forged fraternal relations with all the Churches of the East and ecclesial communities of the West.” With most of these groups, he continued, she "has been able to find points of convergence, even consensus, on various matters, thus strengthening our bonds of communion.”
"Over the last twelve months, the various dialogues have made important progress," the Pope pointed out, referring specifically to the 10th anniversary of Catholic-Lutheran dialogue established within the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and progress in talks with the Anglican Church.
Pope Benedict underscored that the unity of Christians is fundamental to spreading the Gospel to the non-Christian world, asking how Christians can be credible in announcing Christ as "the only Savior of the world and our peace" if we are not unified in facing a "world that does not know Christ."
The Holy Father added that much has been done to establish dialogue with the Eastern Churches and ecclesial communities in recent history and that progress "has been achieved in collaboration and in fraternity in all these years."
However, he continued, "Ecumenical work is not a linear process, the old problems that arose in another age lose their importance, giving way to problems and difficulties of our own time. For this reason we must always be willing to accept a process of purification, through which the Lord makes us capable of unity."
The Pope wrapped up his speech by reaffirming the need for a shared witness to Christ and inviting prayer "for the complex ecumenical reality (and) for the promotion of dialogue."