01/26/2009, 00.00
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Different traditions should not hinder brotherhood among Christians, says Pope

At the end of Christian Unity Week, Pope Benedict XVI turns his thoughts to Korea and the Holy Land. He mentions Pope John XXIII’s announcement of the Second Vatican Council, made exactly 50 years ago in the same Basilica of St Paul’s.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Fifty years after John XXIII spoke in St Paul’s Basilica announcing his intention to convene a Second Vatican Council, Benedict XVI talked again this afternoon and in the same place about the meaning and the ways towards Christian unity which the Council re-proposed at the time. A gift of God and a form of spiritual communion, such unity “stirs as well a sense of brotherhood among nations and in the human family as a whole,” as much at a social level as in places like Korea or the Holy Land.

In the last service of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Pope turned his thoughts to the “brothers of Korea” who suffer from political division, a situation that can help understand the divisions affecting Christians and the Holy Land, where differences in rites and traditions “should not constitute an obstacle to mutual respect and brotherly charity.” He spoke about Korea because this year’s theme for Christian Unity Week—“they form one stick in your hand” (Ez, 37:17)—was chosen by an ecumenical group from that country.

The members of the group, said Benedict XVI, “felt strongly moved as Koreans and Christians by this page of the Bible. As children of the same land they saw in the division of the Jewish people in two kingdoms a reflection of the political events that divided their own country; one side in the north, the other in the south.  This human experience of theirs helped them better understand the tragedy of Christian division. At present, in light of such a Word of God, chosen and proposed to everyone by our Korean brothers, a truth full of hope has emerged. God promised his people a new unity which historically as well must be the sign and tool of reconciliation and peace for all nations.”

It is because of the “kingdom of heaven [which] is like yeast’ that the “whole batch was leavened (cf Mt, 13:33),” said the Pope. “In this sense the prayer we are raising at this time, which refers to Ezekiel’s prophecy, has also become an intercession for the various situations of conflict that presently afflict humanity. Wherever human words become impotent because the tragic sound of violence and weapons prevail, the prophetic force of the Word of God does not falter and repeatedly says that peace is possible, and that we must be the tools of reconciliation and peace. Therefore our prayer for unity and peace must always be backed up by courageous acts of reconciliation among us Christians. My thoughts still go to the Holy Land for it is very important that the faithful who live there and the pilgrims who visit it bear witness to everyone that the diversity in rites and traditions does not constitute an obstacle to mutual respect and brotherly charity. As much as differences are legitimate, we must seek unity in faith in our fundamental ‘yes’ to Christ and his one Church. Thus diversity will not be an obstacle that separates, but rather the kind of richness found in the many expressions of a shared faith.”

Finally Benedict XVI said that “exactly 50 years ago on 25 January 1959 the Blessed Pope John XXIII expressed for the first time in this place his desire to convene “a ecumenical council for the universal Church (photo: Pope John XXIII going to the opening of the Second Vatican Council). He announced the news to the Father Cardinals in the chapter house of the Monastery of St Paul after celebrating a solemn Mass in the Basilica.”

The Second Vatican Council made a “fundamental contribution to ecumenism in the Unitatis Redintegratio decree. [. . .] The attitude of inner conversion in Christ, of spiritual renewal, of greater charity towards other Christians gave rise to a new situation in ecumenical relations. Discussions at the theological level, which has resulted in converging views whilst highlighting the differences that remain, are an incentive to pursue with courage the process in two directions, namely accepting what has been positively achieved, and making a further commitment to the future.”

“The possibility of full unity is still open to us. It is a hard but exciting job for Christians who want to adhere to the Lord’s prayer ‘so that they may all be one [. . .], that the world may believe that you sent me’ (Jn, 17:21). The Second Vatican Council said ‘that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective—the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ’ (UR 24). With our trust in the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, and encouraged by the important steps taken in the ecumenical movement, we faithfully  call upon the Holy Spirit to continue to enlighten and guide our journey.”

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