.- Earlier today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict met with preparatory members of the European Ecumenical Assembly. He chose the occasion to tell his listeners that the Christian mission will only be fruitful and “enlightening” if Christians have the courage to decisively continue “down the path of reconciliation and unity.”
The meeting comes on the heels of the closing ceremonies for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concluded yesterday.
Pope Benedict began by telling the group that their visit “provides a further occasion to shed light upon the links of communion that bind us to Christ, and to renew the will to work together, so that full unity may come as soon as possible."
He then greeted the representatives, who come from European ecumenical organizations, pointing out that they had begun their European ecumenical pilgrimage, “which will culminate in the gathering at Sibiu, Romania, in September 2007 - from here in Rome…site of the preaching and martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul.”
He called this choice “extremely significant because the Apostles were the first to announce the Gospel to us, that Gospel which, as Christians, we are called to proclaim and bear witness to in today's Europe."
The Pope also noted the theme for the group’s upcoming spiritual itinerary - "the light of Christ illuminates everyone. Hope of renewal and unity in Europe," saying that in order for the process of unification of the continent to be fruitful, Europe must "find room for the ethical values which make up part of its vast and well-consolidated spiritual heritage."
"Nonetheless,” the Holy Father pointed out, “our presence as Christians will prove incisive and enlightening only if we have the courage to continue decisively down the path of reconciliation and unity.”
He went on to stress that “Everyone must show such strength ... because we all have a specific responsibility towards the ecumenical progress of Christians on our continent and in the rest of the world.”
Reflecting on the collapse of communism in the previous decades, the Pope said that "Since the fall of the wall dividing Eastern and Western Europe, the meeting between peoples has become easier ... and a need is being felt to face the great challenges of the present time in a united fashion, beginning with the challenges of modernity and secularization."
In closing, Pope Benedict added that, "experience amply demonstrates that sincere and fraternal dialogue generates trust, eliminates fears and preconceived notions, removes difficulties and opens the way to serene and constructive dialogue."