Vatican City, Jan 22, 2014 / 07:25 am
Pope Francis dedicated his general audience today to the topic of Christian unity, emphasizing that although divisions can be painful, we ought to be grateful for the gifts given to other denominations.
"Despite the suffering caused by divisions, should learn to recognize with joy the gifts God has given other Christians and receive them with a big and generous heart," the Pope stated in his Jan. 22 general audience.
Addressing the thousands of pilgrims who flocked to St. Peter's Square in order to hear his weekly address, Pope Francis centered his reflections on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which began on Jan. 18 and will extend through Jan. 25.
The theme of this year's week of prayer is taken from the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians when he asks them, "Has Christ Been Divided?" and was used as the launching point for the Pope's reflections.
Highlighting how the end of the week of prayer coincides with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, the Pope emphasized that this week is "a time dedicated to prayer so that, as the Lord wants, all of us (who are) Baptized be one single family."
Returning to Saint Paul's words to the people of Corinth, the pontiff explained that "we know that Christ has not been divided," however "we must sincerely recognize that our communities continue to experience divisions which are a source of scandal and weaken our witness to the Gospel."
These divisions he said, often "affect the credibility and efficiency of our commitment to evangelizing."
However, Pope Francis went on to explain that in his letter to the Corinthians the apostle does not just "reprimand them for their disputes," but he "also thanks God for the gifts that he has poured onto them."
"Paul reminds them to rejoice in the great spiritual gifts which they have received," the pontiff continued, adding that "his words encourage us to rejoice in the gifts God has given to other Christians, gifts which we can receive from them for our enrichment."
We too, emphasized the Pope, "should learn to recognize with joy the gifts God has given other Christians and receive them with a big and generous heart."
To be able to accomplish this "calls for humility, discernment and constant conversion," he reflected, inviting all present be open "to the fullness of joy in the gift of divine Sonship received in Baptism."
Pope Francis concluded his weekly audience by praying that we "recognize with joy and humility the gifts that God grants to other Christians," and by extending his greetings to groups representing various countries around the world.
After the Pope concluded his address, he sent a special message in honor of the "Geneva 2" conference which opened today, Jan. 22 in Montreaux, Switzerland, and has negotiations to continue in Geneva starting on Friday, January 24th.
In his message for the conference, an international gathering whose goal is to negotiate peace in Syria, the pontiff prayed for the political leaders and policy experts participating, asking that the Lord "touch the hearts of all (parties and participants)."
He prayed that in "looking only to the greater good of the so sorely tried Syrian people, they might spare no effort to reach as quickly as possible the cessation of violence and the end of the conflict, which has already caused too much suffering."
The ongoing conflict in Syria has so far claimed the lives of over 100 thousand people, and driven millions more to flee their homeland in search of safety.
Continuing his message, the Pope expressed his hope for the "dear nation of Syria," that it undertake "with conviction the path of reconciliation, concord and reconstruction with the participation of all citizens, in which everyone can find in the other, not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother to welcome and embrace."