Pope Benedict XVI interrupted his catechesis on the Church Fathers this morning to address the theme of Christian Unity at the weekly general audience.
Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims who gathered in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father said that during this week of prayer, Christ's faithful throughout the whole world, in all Churches and ecclesial communities, ask for the grace of unity, and commit themselves to work tirelessly so that the whole world welcomes Christ as the true Shepherd and one Lord.
"When Christians from various communities come together to pray in common,” the Pope said, “they acknowledge that unity cannot be achieved by human strength alone. Only by relying on God's grace can they live according to Jesus' prayer that "they may all be one." (Jn 17:20-21)
Benedict highlighted the special significance of this week of prayer for Christian Unity, which began one hundred years ago.
"This week, Christians throughout the whole world we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian unity, initiated by Father Paul Wattson, founder of the Society of the Atonement. The theme chosen for this year is St. Paul's exhortation to the Thessalonians to "pray unceasingly" (1 Thess. 5:17) According to the Second Vatican Council, prayer and holiness of life are the "soul of the whole ecumenical movement (Unitatis Redintegratio 8).”
The Holy Father called on Christians everywhere to give thanks for ecumenical achievements and to persevere on the path that leads to unity.
"I therefore invite all Christians to render fitting thanks to Almighty God for the progress achieved thus far along the path of ecumenism, and to persevere as they strive toward unity so that "the world may believe" (Jn. 17:21) that Jesus is the only Son sent by the Father."
The pope greeted the faithful in many languages, including English.
I extend a cordial welcome to the English speaking pilgrims present at today's audience, including students and staff from St. Mary's High School in Sydney and members of the delegation of leaders from the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders. May God bestow abundant blessings upon all of you!
The week of prayer for Christian Unity concludes on Friday, January 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Pope Benedict will end the week with Solemn Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.