Vatican City (AsiaNews) It is "urgent" to rebuild unity among Christians and help the whole of human kind. This year has shown that efforts in that direction are growing. This is illustrated by increasing contacts among Christian Churches and the number of visitors who have come to see the Pope such as Finland's ecumenical delegation or Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
Confirmation of John Paul II's wish to do everything possible to promote full Christian came in today's exchange of Christmas Greetings between himself, the cardinals, the members of the Pontifical family and the Roman Curia.
This is a traditional event in which the Pope offers an end-of-the-year assessment of the life of the Church; in it, he emphasises the highlights.
The Holy Father personally read most of the speech leaving part to his substitute, Mgr Leonardo Sandri.
He began on a personal note thanking the Curia for "their presence and the affection with which they surround him". He added that "as time goes by the need for God's and people's help becomes more obvious. Thank you for the team work you and I have at the service of the Universal Church, each one carrying out his assigned duties.
"From the Son of God made man, Lumen gentium," the Pope said, "the Church has received the important mission to be 'a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race' (Lumen gentium, 1).
"Dear brothers, let us be more and more conscious that the communion with God and the unity among men that begin with believers are our priorities. 'Ut unum sint!'
"It is urgent," he went on to say, "to rebuild the full communion among Christians. One of the intended goals of the Year of the Eucharist is to further highlight the thirst for unity by pointing out its one and boundless source: Christ himself."
Remembering that this year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Constitution of the ChurchLumen gentium and of the decrees Orientalium Ecclesiarum on the Eastern Catholic Churches and Unitatis redintegratio on ecumenism, the Pope urged everyone to thank God "because the ecumenical efforts are growing thanks to constant contacts, meetings and initiatives with our brothers in Orthodox and Protestant Churches and communities.
"In light of this, visits by some of their chief leaders become important. I remember, for instance, the visit from Finland's Ecumenical delegation and especially that of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, in June, on the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, and less than a month ago, the gift of the relics of SS Gregory Nazianzus and John Chrisostomos.
"I hope in all my heart that the return of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia may accelerate the unity of all the disciples of Christ."
"The unity of the Church and of human kind" was the last point the Pope addressed.
"I happen to see," the Pontiff said, "this aspiration to unity in the faces of pilgrims of all ages. I saw it at the Swiss youth meeting in Berne as well as that of the Italian Catholic Action in Loreto.
"Who but Christ can satisfy this hunger for life in communion!
"Believers have a great responsibility, especially vis-à-vis the new generations to whom we must pass on an unchanged Christian heritage.
"For this reason, I have not stopped encouraging European Catholics to remain faithful to Christ, especially during my pilgrimage to Lourdes.
"It is in the heart that Europe's Christian roots are nourished. It is upon them, unquestionably, that a just and solidarity-based Europe and world will depend.
"Let me repeat what I said in my message for the next World Peace Day: We must never let evil defeat us but must defeat it with goodness". (FP)