Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - Pope Francis has expressed his hope that the peace conference for Syria, which opens today in Montreux help the "dear nation of Syria [undertake] with conviction the path of reconciliation, concord and reconstruction with the participation of all citizens, in which everyone can find in the other, not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother to welcome and embrace". He was speaking at the end of today's General Audience of the meeting in Switzerland for which he prayed that "the Lord touch the hearts of all [parties and participants], that, looking only to the greater good of the so sorely tried Syrian people, they might spare no effort to reach as quickly as possible the cessation of violence and the end of the conflict, which has already caused too much suffering".
Before his appeal for Syria, the Pope dedicated his catechesis to the current Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends next Saturday, noting, among other things, that " it is nice to recognize the grace with which God blesses us, and even more, find in other Christians something we need, something we might receive as a gift from our brothers and our sisters".
There were almost 30 thousand people in St Peter's Square for the audience, among which , as usual, the Pope toured at length blessing pilgrims, kissing children, accepting a sip of mate, swapping his skullcap and receiving a helmet of the municipal police of Milan, which he did not put on however.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in the words of the Pope is "a spiritual initiative, more precious than ever, which has involved Christian communities for over a hundred years. It is a time dedicated to prayer for the unity of all baptized, according to the will of Christ: "that all may be one". Each year, an ecumenical group of a region of the world, under the guidance of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity suggests the theme and prepare resources for the Week of Prayer. This year these come from the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of Canada, and refer to the question addressed by St. Paul to the Christians of Corinth: "Has Christ been divided?" (1 Cor 1:13)".
"Certainly Christ has not been divided. But we must sincerely recognize, with pain, that our communities continue to live in divisions that are of scandal. Division among Christians is a scandal, there is no other word: a scandal".
"Baptism and the Cross are the central elements of Christian discipleship that we have in common . Divisions instead weaken the credibility and effectiveness of our commitment to evangelization and are likely to empty the Cross of its power. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their disputes but also gives thanks to the Lord "for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and knowledge" ( 1:4-5 ) . These words are not a mere formality, but a sign that he sees first of all - and he rejoices sincerely in this - the gifts given by God to the community. The Apostle's attitude is an encouragement for us and for every Christian community to recognize with joy the gifts of God present in other communities. In spite of the suffering of the divisions, which unfortunately still exist, we welcome the words of Paul as an invitation to rejoice sincerely in the graces granted by God to Christians".
"The Canadian group that prepared the resources for this Week of Prayer did not invite the community to think about what they could give to their Christian neighbors , but urged them to come together to figure out what they can receive from each other . This requires something more. This requires a lot of prayer, it requires humility, reflection and it requires continual conversion . May we continue on this road , praying for the unity of Christians, so this scandal is lacking and no longer among us".