Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Christians are “heirs to past divisions,” but “Christ can do anything, he ‘makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak’ (Mk 7, 37),” he can instil in Christian the ardent desire to listen to and communicate with one another and speak together with Him the language of mutual love.” It is with this heartfelt emphasis that Benedict XVI referred to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an annual event that will be celebrated by many Christian denominations from January 18 to the 25.
“It is my intention to comment at length on this biblical subject,” said the Pope, “next January 25, liturgical feast of the Conversion of St Paul, when, on the occasion of the end of the ‘Week of Prayer,’ I shall preside over Vespers celebrations in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, starting at 5.30 pm. I expect you to come in great numbers to that liturgical meeting since unity can be especially achieved through prayer, and the more prayer is unanimous, the more it is appreciated by God.”
The Pontiff said that this year’s theme was prepared by “faithful from Umlazi, South Africa, a very poor city, where AIDS has reached pandemic proportions and where there are very few human hopes. But the Risen Christ is hope for everybody, especially for Christians. Heirs to past divisions, they have tried on this occasion to launch an appeal: Christ can do everything, he “makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak" (Mk 7, 37),” can instil in Christians the ardent desire to listen to and communicate with one another as well as speak together with Him the language of mutual love.”
Talking about the ecumenical commitment to Christian unity, Benedict XVI stressed that such a commitment is not limited to the experts but is for everyone. “Ecumenism is a deep dialogical experience; it is listening and talking to one another, knowing each better. It is a task that everyone can accomplish, especially in terms of spiritual ecumenism based on prayer and sharing that are now possible between Christians. I hope that the yearning for unity, translated into prayer and fraternal collaboration to alleviate man’s suffering, can spread more and more at the parish level as well as in Church movements and religious institutes.”
With this in mind, the Pope thanked the Ecumenical Commission of the Rome Vicariate and the parish priests who “encourage the faithful to celebrate the Week”.
He added: “More generally, I am grateful to all those, in every corner of the world, pray and work for unity with conviction and steadfastness. May Mary, Mother of the Church, help all the faithful to let Christ intimately open [their hearts] to mutual communication in charity and truth, to become in Him one heart and mind (cf Acts 4, 32)”.
Following the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI greeted teachers and students from Rome’s Catholic schools, expressing his personal “appreciation for their work.”
In greeting Italian pilgrims, the Pontiff cited the promoters of the ‘Cambia gioco’ [Change the Game] project, who in the city of Lecce invited children to give up their toy guns.
“I congratulate you for this initiative,” the Pope said, and “I want to broaden the appeal: Let us keep children from the contagion of violence!”