Rome (AsiaNews) - Christian unity is "a privileged way, almost a precondition, to announce the faith in an ever more credible manner" in a society in which the "Christian message is less and less a presence in personal and community life."
In the Year of Faith, Benedict XVI's reflection at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity centred on theological virtues, for "without faith, which is primarily God's gift but also man's answer, the entire ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of 'contract' to subscribe out of shared interest."
Representatives of other Churches and Christian communities were in Saint Paul's Basilica, where the pope traditionally celebrates Vespers to end the week. They included Metropolitan Gennandios for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Canon Richardson for the archbishop of Canterbury. Members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches were also in attendance.
After greeting and thanking the aforementioned, the Holy Father thanked the Student Christian Movement in India, which, in cooperation with the All India Catholic University Federation and the National Council of Churches in India, proposed the topic of the 46th week, namely 'What the Lord requires of you', inspired by the words of the Prophet Micah.
The reference to India gave the pope the opportunity to offer his prayer "to all Indian Christians, who are at times called to bear witness to their faith in difficult conditions."
"The scandal of division that undermines missionary activity was the impulse under which began the ecumenical movement that we know today," he said. Although Christian unity in faith has been achieved, doctrinal issues still divide. In fact, they "should not be overlooked or minimised. Instead, they must be faced with courage in a spirit of brotherhood and mutual respect."
"Whilst we are on the path towards full unity, it is necessary that all of Christ's disciples pursue practical cooperation for the sake of passing on the faith to the contemporary world. Today, there is a great need for reconciliation, dialogue and mutual understanding, not from a moralising perspective, but in the name of Christian authenticity so that our presence in the reality of our time is more incisive." Likewise, "True faith in God is inseparable from personal holiness and search for justice."
"Yet, ecumenism shall not bear lasting fruit if it is not accompanied by concrete acts of conversion that move the conscience of people and favour the healing of memories and relations. [. . .] As Prophet Micah suggested, true conversion, of which the Apostle Paul is a noteworthy example, shall bring us closer to God, the centre of our life, that we may be closer to one another. This is a fundamental element in our ecumenical commitment. Renewing the inner life of our hearts and minds, as reflected in everyday life, is crucial to any dialogue and journey of reconciliation because it makes ecumenism a mutual commitment to understanding, respect and love, so 'that the world may believe'."