01/25/2007, 00.00
VATICAN

Christians are “too silent” in bearing witness to the world, says Pope

At the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Benedict XVI urges Christians to ask themselves if they “have become too silent”. Unit requires prayer and dialogue, but also bearing witness.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Christians must ask themselves if they “have become too silent” and “lost the courage to speak and bear witness”. The Pope raised these questions in his address today during vespers on the Feast Day of the Conversion of Saint Paul, apostle, which is the traditional event that marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rome’s Basilica.

In addition to the need to pray, engage others in dialogue, ask for God’s help and better know our fellows in the faith, the Holy Father laid emphasis on the need to “bear witness” and of doing so together.

Benedict XVI, who in Wednesday’s general audience mentioned last year’s moments of dialogue and spoke about ecumenism as “a slow and uphill road, like every path of repentance,” that must be traveled, today stressed the need for Christians to bear witness together on the path towards full unity.

During the solemn ceremony attended by representatives of other Christian Churches and communities the Pope spoke about unity starting with the Gospel story about the healing of the deaf mute, this year’s theme. Remembering that this theme—“He makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak (Mk 7, 37)” —was proposed by Christian communities from South Africa, Benedict XVI said that “situations of racism, poverty, conflict, exploitation, sickness, and suffering, in which they find themselves because of the impossibility of explaining their own needs, create in them an acute need to listen to the word of God and to speak with courage.”

More generally, the first lesson the Pope took from this episode in the Bible is that “from a Christian perspective, listening takes priority. Jesus, for instance, explicitly says: “[B]lessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it (Lk 11, 28).”

In fact, to Martha, ever so worried, He said “[t]here is need of only one thing (Lk 10, 42):” listening to the Word. This comes first in our ecumenical commitment. It is not us who make or organise the unity of the Church. The Church does not make itself and does not live of itself, but [stems] from the creative word that comes from the mouth of God. Listening together to the word of God; practicing the lectio divina of the Bible, i.e. the reading tied to prayer; letting oneself be surprised by the newness of the word of God which never ages and is never used up; overcoming our deafness for words such as these that do not correspond to our prejudices and our opinions; listening and studying within the communion of believers those who in view of this long and rich tradition of listening; all this represent a path we must follow to reach the unity of the faith as a response to listening to the Word.”

“But the seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit (cf Mt 13, 22). We must ask ourselves: Have we Christians perhaps become too silent? Have we lost the courage to speak and bear witness?”

“Our world needs this witness. It is especially waiting for Christians to bear witness together. Hence listening to God who speaks requires us to listen to others and to the other Churches. An honest and loyal dialogue represents the typical and essential means to seek unity. The Decree on Ecumenism by the Second Vatican Council II emphasised that if Christians do not know each other progress towards communion is unimaginable. In dialogue we listen and communicate, we compare and, with God’s grace, converge around his Word, accepting its demands, which are valid for all.”

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