.- "Unity is a gift that can be given to us only by God" the Holy Father told the Lutheran Community of Rome this weekend. The Pope made this the focus of his homily to the community, highlighting common elements between Lutherans and Catholics but also expressing sadness for the Churches' continued disunity.
Commemorating Pope John Paul II's visit to the same Church in 1983, which marked 500 years since the birth of Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI gave a sermon at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rome on Sunday afternoon. He was welcomed by the Lutheran community of Rome's pastor, Jens-Martin Kruse.
Speaking without notes in German, the Pope gave thanks on the occasion that they were all gathered in the same place, "singing together, listening to the Word of God, listening to one another and looking towards the One Christ, bearing witness to the One Christ."
He observed that while "we hear many complaints about the fact that there are no longer any new developments in ecumenism ... we can say with gratitude that there are many elements that unite us."
Noting that the divisions with the two Churches are due to mutual "fault," the Holy Father said "it makes us sad to know that this division is the result of a sinful situation, but we must also know that unity is a gift that can be given to us only by God."
The Holy Father cited differences between the two Churches in "essential aspects" and said that "we must not content ourselves with the successes of ecumenism over recent years, because we still cannot drink from the same chalice or gather together around the same altar."
A joint declaration on justification between the Lutheran and Catholic Churches in 1999, overseen by Pope John Paul II, lifted mutual excommunications dating back to the 16th century. In spite of this, continuing obstacles to unity "cannot but make us sad," the Pope stated, "because it is a situation of sin; and yet unity cannot be achieved by men."
"We must entrust ourselves to the Lord, because He is the only one Who can give us unity. Let us hope that He brings us to that goal."
Over 300 people were in attendance for the occasion, during which time gifts were shared by the Pope and the pastor. Benedict XVI gave the Lutheran pastor a depiction of Christ, in mosaic, modeled after the same work found in the Grottoes under the Altar of the Confession at St. Peter's.
During his homily, the Holy Father also spoke of the grain of wheat that must die to bear fruit. Of this, he explained that "a person who loves his life will lose it, but he who takes up the cross and follows Jesus will have eternal life."
"Life," he said, "is not in receiving but in giving ourselves. If we do not give to another we cannot receive."