Friday, January 27, 2006

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ...

... well it's past. And in the busy-ness of things and with the encyclical and what not, I didn't get around to blogging on it.

Here's the Holy Father's address from last Sunday's Angelus.
This Sunday is celebrated in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place every year from Jan. 18-25. It is an initiative, born at the beginning of the past century, which has undergone a positive development, increasingly becoming an ecumenical point of reference, in which Christians of the various confessions worldwide pray and reflect on the same biblical text.

The passage chosen this year is taken from chapter 18 of Matthew's Gospel, which refers to some of the teachings of Jesus that affect the community of disciples. Among other things, it affirms: "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20).

These words of the Lord Jesus infuse much confidence and hope! In particular, they invite Christians to ask God together for that full unity among them, for which Christ himself, with heartfelt insistence, prayed to the Father during the Last Supper (cf. John 17:11,21,23). We understand, therefore, the reason why it is so important that we, Christians, invoke the gift of unity with persevering constancy. If we do so with faith, we can be sure that our request will be heard. We do not know when or how, as it is not for us to know, but we must not doubt that one day we will be "one," as Jesus and the Father are united in the Holy Spirit.

The prayer for unity is the soul of the ecumenical movement, which, thanks be to God, advances throughout the world. Of course difficulties and trials are not lacking, but these also have their spiritual usefulness, as they drive us to have patience and perseverance and to grow in fraternal charity. God is love and only if we are converted to him and accept his Word will we all be united in the one Mystical Body of Christ.

The expression, "God is love," in Latin "Deus Caritas Est," is the title of my first encyclical, which will be published next Wednesday, Jan. 25, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I am happy it coincides with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On that day, I will go to St. Paul's Basilica to preside at Vespers, in which representatives of other churches and ecclesial communities will take part. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us.
At that Vespers service, in his homily (not yet on the Vatican website in English), the Pope says:
Deus caritas est (1 Gv 4, 8.16), Dio è amore. Su questa solida roccia poggia tutta intera la fede della Chiesa. In particolare, si basa su di essa la paziente ricerca della piena comunione tra tutti i discepoli di Cristo: fissando lo sguardo su questa verità, culmine della divina rivelazione, le divisioni, pur mantenendo la loro dolorosa gravità, appaiono superabili e non ci scoraggiano.

["Deus caritas est, God is love. On this solid rock hangs the entire faith of the Church. In particular, the patient search for full communion between all the disciples of Christ is based on this: fixing their gaze on this truth, the summit of divine revelation, the divisions, while maintaining their sad gravity, appear surmountable, and do not discourage us"]
Check out more links at the Graymoor Friars (who started the Week over a hundred years ago), and read some reflections on the theme over at Catholic Sensibility.

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