"These are days of reflection and prayer”, the Holy Father said today in his general audience at the Vatican, recalling the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which began yesterday.
He continued that the week is a fitting reminder to Christians “that the re-establishment of full unity among them, according to Jesus' will, involves all the baptized, both pastors and faithful."
John Paul II affirmed that the Week of Prayer "is taking place a few months after the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Decree 'Unitatis redintegratio' of Vatican Council II, a key text that firmly and irrevocably placed the Catholic Church within the ecumenical movement."
"This year," he went on, "the theme faces us with a truth basic to all ecumenical commitment: that Christ is the foundation of the Church.
“The Council strongly recommended prayer for unity as the soul of the entire ecumenical movement. ... But prayer must be accompanied by purification of mind, feelings and memory. Thus it becomes an expression of that 'interior conversion' without which there is no ecumenism.”
In the end, unity is a gift of God, a gift to be tirelessly implored with humility and truth."
After highlighting how the longing for unity is spreading, the Holy Father pointed out that "the Lord has recently allowed his disciples to form important contacts of dialogue and collaboration.”
The pain of separation makes itself felt ever more intensely, in the face of the challenges of a world that awaits clear and unanimous evangelical witness from all believers in Christ."
The Pope concluded by recalling that on January 25 he will be spiritually present at the celebration of Vespers to close the Week of Prayer, which will be presided in his name by Cardinal Walter Kasper.
The ceremony is due to take place in the basilica of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls and will be attended by representatives from other Churches and Christian confessions.
"I also ask you to pray so that, as soon as possible, the entire family of the faithful may achieve the full communion desired by Christ."
Prior to the audience, John Paul II blessed a statue of St Gregory the Illuminator, the apostle of the Armenians, which has been placed behind the Vatican Basilica. The brief ceremony was attended by the patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, together with the bishops of his entourage.