Vatican City (AsiaNews) - For Pope Francis, "we cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world." Still, although "The goal of full unity may seem distant indeed, [. . .] it remains the aim which should direct our every step along the way," the pope said in his meeting with Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury with whom he shared a moment of prayer.
After a private meeting, in his address to the Primate of the Anglican Communion, the Pope, who recalled their previous meeting on 14 June last year, stressed the importance of the work that the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission for Unity and Mission are doing and their ongoing cooperation against human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery.
Although we share a "commitment to the great cause of reconciliation and communion between Christian believers," Francis said, "Our vision is often blurred by the cumulative burden of our divisions and our will is not always free of that human ambition which can accompany even our desire to preach the Gospel as the Lord commanded (cf. Mt 28:19).
"The goal of full unity may seem distant indeed, yet it remains the aim which should direct our every step along the way. I find a source of encouragement in the plea of the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism that we should advance in our relationship and cooperation by placing no obstacle to the ways of divine providence and by not prejudicing future promptings of the Holy Spirit (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 24). Our progress towards full communion will not be the fruit of human actions alone, but a free gift of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength not to grow disheartened and he invites us to trust fully in the power of his works.
"As disciples who strive to follow the Lord, we realize that the faith has come to us through many witnesses. We are indebted to great saints, teachers and communities; they have handed down the faith over the ages and they bear witness to our common roots. Yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Your Grace celebrated Vespers in the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, from which Pope Gregory the Great sent forth Augustine and his monastic companions to evangelize the peoples of England, thus inaugurating a history of faith and holiness which in turn enriched many other European peoples. This glorious history has profoundly shaped institutions and ecclesial traditions which we share and which serve as a solid basis for our fraternal relations.
"At our first meeting, Your Grace and I discussed our shared concerns and our pain before a number of grave evils afflicting our human family. In particular, we shared our horror in the face of the scourge of human trafficking and forms of modern-day slavery. I thank you for the leadership you have shown in opposing these intolerable crimes against human dignity.
"In attempting to respond to this urgent need, notable collaborative efforts have been initiated on the ecumenical level and in cooperation with civil authorities and international organizations. Many charitable initiatives have been undertaken by our communities, and they are operating with generosity and courage in various parts of the world. I think in particular of the action network against the trafficking in women set up by a number of women's religious institutes.
"Let us persevere in our commitment to combat new forms of enslavement, in the hope that we can help provide relief to victims and oppose this deplorable trade. I thank God that, as disciples sent to heal a wounded world, we stand together, with perseverance and determination, in opposing this grave evil.