This morning, Benedict XVI received an ecumenical delegation from Finland for the Feast of St. Henry, their country’s patron saint, whose feast day is celebrated tomorrow. In his talk, the Holy Father stressed the importance of prayer and dialogue for achieving Christian unity.
“Christian unity is a gift from above, stemming from and growing towards loving communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The joint prayer of Lutherans and Catholics from Finland is a humble but faithful sharing in the prayer of Jesus, who promised that every prayer raised to the Father in His name would be heard,” the Pope told the Finns.
He continued, “This indeed, is the royal door of ecumenism: such prayer leads us to look at the Kingdom of God and the unity of the Church in a fresh way; it reinforces our bonds of communion; and it enables us to face courageously the painful memories, social burdens and human weaknesses that are so much a part of our divisions.”
Reminding his audience that today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with the theme “pray without ceasing”, the Pope said, “We must be grateful for the fruits of the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue in Finland and Sweden concerning central matters of the Christian faith, including the question of justification in the life of the Church.”
The Pope also called to mind how last year marked the 450th anniversary of the death of the theologian Mikael Agricola, who translated the Bible into Finnish. “This occasion emphasized anew the importance of Scripture for the Church, for individual Christians and for the whole of society”, as well as “for our ecumenical journey”.
“Dear friends, it is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will bring you much joy as you recall the witness of the first Christians, and particularly the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the founding apostles of the Church of Rome.
"Saint Henrik followed in their footsteps,” the Pontiff continued, “bringing the Gospel message and its saving power to the lives of the Nordic peoples. In the new and challenging circumstances of Europe today, and within your own country, there is much that Lutherans and Catholics can do together in the service of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”