Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The “ecumenical journey is a slow and uphill one, as are all journeys of penance” but it is necessary “ to persevere in the commitment to continuing this slow, uphill but important journey”. And in Benedict XVI’s judgement in 2006 “steps towards unity” were taken, first and foremost in relations with the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, about which Benedict said he wished to remember “the many gestures, more eloquent than words”. Along with Constantinople he assured his continued commitment “to pursue the issue until all of the benefits are of that embrace of peace shared with His Holiness Bartholomew I during the Divine Liturgy in the Church of St Gorge in the Phanar , November translate into practical consequences”.
Highlights of “steps” taken in the ecumenical journey during 2006 were outlined by the Pope today in the course of his general audience delivered to a crowd of over 5 thousand people in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall. Benedict XVI reflected on the many ecumenical encounters which were held last year, indicating that they were a sign that “we must not give up in our good intentions, but intensify our efforts and work with trust” certain that the Holy Spirit which “guides us”, “will do the rest”.
Listing the primary ecumenical events Pope Benedict cited, among others the recent visit by the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, the official visit of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and of delegations from the World Baptist Alliance, his meetings with "leaders of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, “which he affectionately follows”, that of the Bishop of Athens and his message sent to the World Methodist conference in Seoul. Then indicating the summit meeting of religious leaders in Moscow, Russia, in July 2006 at which Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, “with a special message, requested the presence of the Holy See”. These all are in the words of the Pope, “space for joy”, “refreshing breaks” which “highlight the commitment - often silent, but deep - that unites us in the search for unity.”.
Today the eve of the conclusion of the week of prayer for Christian unity, Benedict XVI has underlined that “in the wonderful growth in commitment to Christian unity”, the “first common duty is prayer and by praying constantly praying together Christians become more aware of their status as brothers even if they are still divided but listen to the Lord”. Unity, last but not least, is shown through words and gestures of contact between peoples and local communities all over the world especially there where it is most difficult to show solidarity with your brothers.