Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Yesterday was the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is an extremely opportune time for reflection and prayer to remind Christians that the restoration of full unity among them, as Jesus so desired, is the task of every baptized person, including the shepherds as well as the faithful (see the Decree on Ecumenism, 5).

The Week of Prayer is taking place a few months after the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on Christian unity, Unitatis Redintegratio, which is a key text that firmly and irrevocably situated the Catholic Church within the ecumenical movement.

The Church’s Foundation

This year’s theme presents a truth that is basic to every ecumenical endeavor: Christ is the foundation of the Church. The Council strongly recommended prayer as the means for the unity that is at the heart of the entire ecumenical movement (Decree on Ecumenism, 8). Since “human powers and capacities cannot achieve” reconciliation among Christians (Decree on Ecumenism, 24), this prayer expresses a hope that does not fail and a trust in the Lord who makes all things new (see Romans 5:5; Revelation 21:5). But a purification of the mind, of feelings and of the memory must accompany this prayer. Thus, it becomes an expression of that “interior conversion,” without which there is no true ecumenism (Decree on Ecumenism, 7). In the end, unity is a gift from God, a gift that we implore unceasingly with humility and in truth.

Signs of Hope

This desire for unity is spreading and growing deeper, reaching new circles and spheres and stirring up a new zeal for reflection, work and action. Recently, the Lord has even made it possible for his disciples to engage in some important contacts of dialogue and collaboration. The pain of separation is felt with growing intensity in face of the challenges of a world that expects clear and undivided witness to the Gospel from all those who believe in Christ.

As usual, the Week of Prayer in Rome will conclude with the celebration of vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on January 25. I am grateful to Cardinal Walter Kasper, who will be my representative at this liturgical gathering, in which representatives of other churches and denominations will take part. I will be united with them spiritually, and I also ask you to pray so that the entire family of believers may achieve as soon as possible the full communion that Christ wanted.

(Register translation)