God Alone Can Gift Unity, says Pope


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(20 Jan 10 - RV) The search for Christian unity has made "great progress" over the past century, "but full unity is a "gift of God", for which we must pray.

This is the meaning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated this week and to which Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Wednesday audience delivered to the eight thousand people in the Paul VI audience hall.

The Pope said: "The theme chosen for this year - "You are witnesses of these things" (Lk 24:48) - brings out this close bond between Christian unity and evangelization. This was a major concern of the Edinburgh Conference, which marked the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement one hundred years ago".

In comments in Italian the Pope posed two questions. First, what are these 'things' that we must witness?". The answer he said is that "we must above all witness the Cross and the Resurrection". In this way we begin to understand all the Scriptures.

To the second question "how can we be witnesses", the Pope responded "only by knowing Jesus and thus knowing God". "Only in really encountering Him in our lives can we become witnesses of faith"

"Today's increasingly secularized society urgently requires a united witness to Jesus Christ grounded in a common profession of faith, as well as fraternal cooperation between separated Christians, dialogue and deeper reflection on the points of continuing divergence".

Pope Benedict noted "The great progress made over the past century". He said ecumenism "has grown so significantly that it becomes important in the life of the Churches" dealing "with issues that involve the church life such as the common recognition of baptism and solutions for mixed marriages".

He also recalled the ten years since the Joint Declaration on Justification with the Lutherans, the continuation of talks with Anglicans, the "positive steps" of the Joint Working Commission with the Orthodox. "In the wake of such a spirit. - he observed - contacts have also expanded to Pentecostal, evangelical and charismatic movements for a better mutual understanding", although he noted they also see serious problems in this area.

"During this Week I ask all of you to join me in praying for these intentions, in thanking God for the ecumenical progress made in the past year, and in asking that Christians of our time, by growing in unity, may offer an ever more convincing witness to the Risen Lord".

The common commitment to continue on the path of ecumenism, the Pope concluded, "is a positive sign which shows how intense the desire for unity is despite the difficulties."