06/22/2015, 00.00
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Pope: Christian unity "is a journey of communion" and "does not mean uniformity"

Francis visits the Waldensian Temple in Turin, the first pope in history to enter one. He speaks of "the deep bond that already unites us, despite our differences", the common commitment to evangelization and care of those in need. "On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask forgiveness. I ask forgiveness our non-Christian attitudes and behavior against you in the past".

Turin (AsiaNews) - Catholic sand Waldensians "are called to continue to journey together" – so that "communion is achieved on our journey" and "not  uniformity" -  emphasizing  "the deep bond that already unites us, despite our differences" , such as the common commitment to evangelization and care of those in need and forgiveness for past "conflict and violence" committed in the name of their faith."  “On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask forgiveness. I ask forgiveness our non-Christian attitudes and behavior against you in the past". This, in short, was the heart of  Francis’ address this morning, on the present and the future relationship between Catholics and Waldensians, visiting the Waldensian Temple in Turin.

Francis, appeared rather tired, as he started the second and last day of his stay in Turin in a Waldensian Temple, the first pope in history to make such a gesture. On arrival he was greeted by the moderator of the Waldensian Church, Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, President of the Consistory of the Waldensian Evangelical Church of Turin, Sergio Velvet, and the head of the Evangelical Waldesian Church in Turin, Pastor Paolo Ribet.

In his greeting Pastor Eugenio Bernardini recalled "persecution" suffered by the Waldensians, accused of heresy, he asked that they no longer be referred to as an "ecclesial community" as defined by the Vatican, but as a Church and he said that intercommunion is possible. The minister also spoke of the progress made in relation to each other in time, the common commitment to evangelization and religious freedom, a right now violated in many parts of the world.

The Pope, after recalling encounters "with friends of the Waldensian Evangelical Church of the River Plata, whose spirituality and faith I appreciated and from whom I learned many good things," he said that "one of the main fruits that the Ecumenical movement has brought to bear in these years is the rediscovery of brotherhood that unites all those who believe in Jesus Christ and have been baptized in his name. This bond is not based simply on human criteria, but the radical sharing of the founding experience of the Christian life: the encounter with the love of God that is revealed to us in Jesus Christ and the transforming action of the Holy Spirit to assist us on the path of life. The rediscovery of this brotherhood allows us to grasp the deep bond that already unites us, despite our differences. It is a communion that is still journeying, that the unit is on this journey, that, with prayer, with the continuous personal and community conversion and with the help of theologians, we hope, trusting in the action of the Holy Spirit, can become full and visible communion in truth and charity ".

"The unity which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit - he continued - does not mean uniformity. Our brothers are united by a common origin, but are not identical to each other. This is clear in the New Testament, where, despite being called brothers all those who shared the same faith in Jesus Christ, realized that not all Christian communities, of which they were part, had the same style, or an identical internal organization. Even within the same small community different charisms could be seen (cf. 1 Cor 12-14), and even in announcing the Gospel there were diversity and sometimes contrasts (cf. Acts 15.36 to 40). Unfortunately, it has happened and continues to happen that some could not accept these differences and in the end to make war against each other. Reflecting on the history of our relations, we can only grieve in the face of the conflicts and violence committed in the name of the faith, and ask the Lord to give us the grace to recognize we are all sinners and know how to forgive one another. This is an initiative of God, who never resigns Himself in front of  man's sin, Who opens new ways to live our fraternity, and this we cannot escape. On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask forgiveness. I ask forgiveness our non-Christian attitudes and behavior against you in the past. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us! ".

"Therefore we are deeply grateful to the Lord to see that relations between Catholics and Waldensians today are increasingly based on mutual respect and fraternal charity. There have been many occasions that have helped balance these relations. "

"Encouraged by these steps, we are called to continue to walk together. One area in which there are ample opportunities for collaboration between the Waldensian and Catholics is that of evangelization. Aware that the Lord has gone before us and always precedes us in love (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), let us go together to the men and women of today, who sometimes seem so distracted and indifferent, to convey to them the heart of the Gospel namely 'the beauty of the saving love of God manifested in Jesus Christ dead and risen "(ibid., n. Evangelii Gaudium, 36). Another area where we can work more closely together is to the service of humanity that suffers, the poor, the sick, the immigrants ". "From the work of liberating grace in each of us comes the need to bear witness to the merciful face of God who cares for all and, in particular, for those in need. The option for the poor, the least, of those who society excludes, brings us closer to the heart of God, who became poor to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8.9), and, therefore, brings us closer to each other. The differences on important anthropological and ethical issues, which continue to exist between Catholics and Waldensians, should not prevent us from finding forms of cooperation in these and other fields. If we walk together, the Lord helps us to live this communion that precedes any conflict. "

"Dear brothers and sisters - he concluded - I thank you again for this meeting, I would like to confirm that in a new way of being with each other: looking first of all at the greatness of our common faith and our life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, and, only after, the differences that still exist. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I ask you please pray for me. I need it. May the Lord give all of us His mercy and His peace. "

After the meeting, after a few songs and the recitation of the Our Father, the Pope greeted a delegation of guests of the Waldesian Church in the adjoining lounge. On returning to the Archbishop’s residence, Francis will meet with some of his relatives from Northern Italy with whom he will celebrate Mass and have lunch.

In the afternoon, after having thanked those organized his visit to Turin, the Pope will return to Rome.

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