Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A “long and not difficult journey” will lead Christians to their unity but we “must not be discouraged.” Instead, we must “continue it,” first of all through prayers “every day” that it may occur but also through charitable work that show Christians’ shared understanding. These, in essence, are the main points Benedict XVI made in his address to 7,000 people who had gathered in the Paul VI Hall for the Holy Father’s general audience. His remarks were dedicated to the Week of Prayers for Christian Unity and for friendship between Jews and Christians.
In mentioning that Christian Unity Week begins tomorrow, “a crucial time for commitment and prayer by all Christians,” he said that he “saw how much the desire for unity was strong during the meetings with representatives of Churches and ecclesial communities in these years and especially during the very moving meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey, at the end of November.”
“These and other experiences have made my heart more hopeful.” Even though it will be a “long and difficult journey,” we “must not be discouraged” but should instead “continue it,” counting on the help Jesus promised.
Benedict XVI told his audience that in a few countries, including Italy, “the Week is preceded by a day of Jewish-Christian reflection which we celebrate today”. This day is meant to “promote awareness” and “develop the relationship based on respect and friendship between Jews and Christians”. Their relationship, he stressed, further “developed” after the Second Vatican Council and John Paul II’s “historic visit” to Rome’s main synagogue on April 13, 1986.
“Friendship between Jews and Christians,” he added, “must be based on praying for all if we want it to be fruitful.” Similarly, he urged Jews and Christians to show mutual “respect and esteem and work together for justice and peace in the world.”
Speaking about the Week of Prayer”, Benedict XVI reminded his audience that this year the topic taken from the Bible was about making the deaf hear and the mute speak, taking its inspiration for the healing of the deaf-mute as told in the Gospel of Mark. Every Christian, “spiritually deaf and mute because of the original sin,” through the baptism received the means to hear the word of God and proclaim it to his brothers. Or better still, from this moment Christians are given the responsibility of maturing in the awareness and love of Christ so as to be able to announce the Gospel.
Announcing the Gospel and bearing witness about charity—i.e. “every comfort Christians may concretely bring to others’ suffering”— “will favour,” in the Pope’s words, “the journey towards unity”.
“The harmony of purpose to alleviate man’s suffering, the search for truth, the conversion of one’s life and repentance are necessary steps each Christian must take”.
However, “praying for unity cannot be limited to a week per year. It must be done every day of the year” so that “significant steps can be taken on the path to full and perfect communion.”