Christian unity requires ‘authentic interior renewal,’ Pope exhorts

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI


At today's general audience, Pope Benedict highlighted the current celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and emphasized the need for Christians to undergo “authentic interior renewal.” This renewal, he said, will allow Christians to give a united witness to an increasingly divided world.    

Addressing the pilgrims assembled in the Paul VI Hall this morning, the Holy Father explained that full unity is linked to the very life and mission of the Church in the world. “It is important that each Christian community become aware of the importance of unity, which is above all a gift of God,” he said.

The way to seek unity, Benedict XVI said, is to implore it “with tireless and faithful prayer, escaping our own concerns and addressing ourselves to Jesus. This is the invitation the 'Week' makes to believers in Christ from all Churches and ecclesial communities. Let us respond generously."

From the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, the Holy Father noted that "the Lord wishes all His people to proceed patiently and perseveringly towards the goal of full unity.” “Such a commitment requires humble and docile adherence to the command of the Lord, Who blesses it and makes it fruitful."

The Pontiff indicated that Ezekiel's vision has particular significance for the entire ecumenical movement, “because it highlights the vital need for authentic interior renewal in all members of the People of God, a renewal which only God can bring about.” “The week of prayer for unity thus becomes, for all of us, a stimulus to a sincere exchange of ideas, to an ever more humble acceptance of the Word of God, and to an ever deeper faith,” he added.

The Pope also offered a sketch of his ecumenical meetings over the past year. First, he mentioned his three meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and the patriarch's participation in the Synod on the Word of God held in the Vatican in October 2008.

Benedict XVI then spoke of the pain he shared with the Moscow Patriarchate for Alexy II’s death. He continued, “I remain in communion of prayer with these our brethren as they prepare to elect a new patriarch of their great and venerable Orthodox Church.”

Additionally, the Holy Father mentioned that he has had the chance to meet representatives of the various Christian communities of the West, with whom he said he continues “to consider the important witness Christians are called to give today, in a world ever more divided and facing so many cultural, social, economic and ethical challenges."

As he closed his words to the faithful at the general audience, Pope Benedict urged Christians to make St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Ephesians their own, following Paul’s “supreme witness of faithfulness and of love for Christ.”

“The desire dwelling in our hearts is that the day of full communion may come quickly, when all the disciples of our one Lord may finally celebrate the Eucharist together, the divine sacrifice for the life and salvation of the world," the Pope said.

Following the audience, as is the tradition for today's feast of St. Agnes, the Pope blessed two lambs, the wool of which will be used to make palliums bestowed on new archbishops on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Subsequently, the Holy Father received the tile of honorary citizen from the Austrian town of Mariazell, home of a famous Marian shrine he visited in September 2007.

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