.- Presiding at the celebration of vespers Thursday afternoon in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI challenged all Christians to be courageous in proclaiming the word of God and said that what the world “awaits above all” is the united testimony of Christians.
The Pontiff was joined by representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities to mark the end of the Week of Prayer For Christian Unity, on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
“Unity can clearly not be imposed,” the Holy Father continued, “it must be shared, and founded on a joint participation in a single faith. Listening and speaking, understanding others and communicating one's faith are, then, essential dimensions of ecumenical practice. Honest and faithful dialogue is the ... indispensable instrument of unity."
"It is crucial," he said, "that 'doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety,' for a dialogue that confronts, discusses and overcomes the differences that still exist between Christians. Yet, at the same time, 'the way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren'."
The Pope highlighted the fact that "ecumenical dialogue ... leads to reciprocal spiritual enrichment in the sharing of true experiences of faith and Christian life. For this to happen, we must tirelessly implore the assistance of God's grace and the illumination of the Holy Spirit."
At the end of his homily, the Holy Father entrusted to St. Paul, "indefatigable builder of unity in the Church, the fruits of the dialogue and shared testimony we have experienced in many fraternal meetings ... during the course of 2006."
Benedict XVI closed by thanking all those people who "have contributed to intensifying ecumenical dialogue through prayer, and by offering their suffering and their tireless activities."