.- For a second week Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Wednesday General Audience to the theme of Christian Unity. The Holy Father laid out, for the faithful gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, his Pontificate’s outlook on Ecumenical dialogue.
Unity is something "that concerns the whole Church," said the Pope. By praying together "Christians become more aware of their status as brothers, though still divided."
"Looking back over the journey of these last 40 years, it is surprising how the Lord has reawoken us from the torpor of self-satisfaction and indifference, how He makes us ever more capable of 'listening' to one another, and not just of 'hearing' one another."
"Ecumenism," the Holy Father went on, "is a slow process, a long uphill journey, like all journeys of penance." Yet, despite the difficulties, "it also leaves ample space for joy, revitalizing pauses, and it enables us, from time to time, to breath the pure air of full communion with both lungs."
Experience has shown that the search for unity takes place "under many circumstances," said Pope Benedict, and he mentioned parishes, hospitals and local communities, especially "in regions where a gesture of good will towards a brother or sister requires great effort and a purification of memory.
"In this context of hope," he added, "we must place the meetings and events that constantly characterize my own ministry, the ministry of the bishop of Rome, pastor of the Universal Church." And he went on to recall the ecumenical milestones of the past year such as "the official visit of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, ... and of delegations from the World Baptist Alliance and from the Evangelical Lutheran Church."
The Holy Father also mentioned his meetings with "leaders of the Orthodox Church of Georgia," and the summit meeting of religious leaders in Moscow, Russia, in July 2006 at which Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, "with a special message, requested the presence of the Holy See."
After recalling the official visit of the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, The Holy Father went on to speak of his "unforgettable" trip to Turkey and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul, underlining his "commitment to ensure that the embrace of peace we exchanged during the divine liturgy in the church of St. George in Fanar," translates into practical consequences.
"These moments," he concluded, "highlight the commitment - often silent, but deep - that unites us in the search for unity. They encourage us to make every effort to continue this slow but important uphill journey."
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is due to end tomorrow with the celebration of Vespers in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls.