Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 20 January 1988, the Holy Father spoke on the will of Christ that all the faithful might be one.

1. "...As you, Father, are in me and I in you, so that they too may be in us and the world may believe that you have sent me" ( Jn 17, 21).

This is how Jesus prayed for the disciples, who were with him at the Supper, and for all those who through his word would believe in him. The entire search for full unity among Christians is based on this prayer.

The ecumenical movement, in which "all those who invoke the Triune God and confess Jesus Lord and Savior" ( Unitatis redintegratio, 1) participate, finds in the prayer of Jesus its ultimate perspective and its criterion of authentic missionary effectiveness, lived today with such intensity: unity as a sign and instrument of evangelization of the world. The theological and pastoral work for the recomposition of the full unity of Christians corresponds to the very will of Jesus Christ. For this reason, the Catholic Church sees here a preparatory task, to which the Second Vatican Council has invited "both the faithful and the Pastors, each according to his own ability" ( Unitatis redintegratio, 5).

Given the difficulty of the question, whose solution "exceeds human strength and capacity", the Council declares that it "places all its hope in Christ's prayer for the Church, in the Father's love for us, in the virtue of the Holy Spirit" ( Unitatis redintegratio, 24). And the Council also recalls the words of Saint Paul to the Romans "And hope will not be disappointed" ( Rom 5, 5).

2. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is being celebrated annually during these days or also on the occasion of the Feast of Pentecost, wants to be integrated, with fidelity and a spirit of obedience, into the very heart of Jesus' prayer to the Father, so that all may be the same thing, perfect in unity and consecrated in truth. This fruitful initiative, which, by the grace of God, is being celebrated with ever greater intensity, is solidly founded on the foundation of a faith that is still common. This initiative also manifests the intention of Christians to do everything possible, each one in his or her own part, to walk together towards full unity, as the Lord himself desires. Our faith assures us that the Lord is in our midst ( Matt .18, 20). He, who is "the way and the truth", will accompany those who believe in him, as he once accompanied the disciples of Emmaus ( Lk 24, 30), to the "table" of the Eucharist, in the unity of faith fully restored. Like those disciples, we too must walk this path with our hearts "burning within" and listening to the explanation of the Scriptures.

In all this prayer is of decisive importance. It frees us from concerns that do not belong to the plan of God, concentrates us on "the only thing that is necessary" and directs us towards the fulfillment of the divine will.

3. In this Week of Prayer for Unity, it is also our duty to give thanks to God for all the progress we have made so far. It is true: the unity that we all desire does not yet exist and serious difficulties remain. But relations between Christians and theological dialogue have created a truly new situation of brotherhood. The existing communion has been given its just relief and the divergences have been pointed out with greater precision. In addition, important convergences have been achieved, albeit with considerable effort, on some issues that were once very controversial, such as baptism, justification, ministry, the Eucharist, authority in the Church. Meanwhile, the dialogue with the Christian World Churches and Communions continues, sustained by the hope that full agreement can finally be reached. This extremely delicate process requires the support of everyone's prayers.

Also last year, both here in Rome and in the different countries I visited, I had the joy of meeting leaders of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. Despite the diversity of local situations, I was able to verify that the concern for unity is becoming increasingly urgent. How not to remember, among these meetings, in a very particular way the recent visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Dimitrios I! Together we have talked, together we have blessed the faithful. Together we wanted to do everything that faith allowed us. Together we have been deeply saddened by not being able to partake of the same Bread and the same Cup. May this sincere sadness be for all a source of new impetus in the effort to clarify and resolve the difficulties that remain in our common path. And that,

4. This is precisely what the Week of Prayer we are celebrating invites us to do, centered on the theme "God's love casts out fear" (cf. 1 Jn 4:18 ).

The theme reminds us, first of all, of the love of God that is at the base of the Christian life. The Holy Trinity loved us "before the world was". The Son of God has been sent to us, who has freed us from slavery, has called us to be new creatures, made in his image and likeness, has placed us in communion with his own life, assuring us of a love that they cannot give us. separate neither life nor death.

If so, the requirement of reciprocal love follows from this. "If God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another" ( 1 Jn 4:11 ). The ecumenical experience shows us with increasing evidence that the dialogue of charity sustains the entire effort for reconciliation. Love not only engenders reciprocal forgiveness, but also frees the other from suspicion and fear, who, on the contrary, reveals himself to us as a brother in the Lord.

The Mixed Commission, made up of leaders of the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Council of Churches, by proposing this theme, draws our attention to the phenomenon of fear present in today's world and also in Christian communities. Fear is a feeling that divides, isolates, imprisons. But we believe in the one who has conquered the world, in the one who has defeated death and has given us life. The restoration of unity among Christians, in love and in truth, will be an effective sign of hope for a better coexistence in the world. If within the Christian communities there is a sincere love, this love also frees us from the fear that unity could be transformed into uniformity. Unity is a good for all. The unit not only knows how to respect the authentic existing charisms,

In love there is no fear (cf. 1 Jn 4, 18). Without false fears, then, and with our hearts comforted by the love of God, let us continue with perseverance in prayer and in the opportune initiatives with a view to reestablishing unity among all Christians.

I invite all those present to join me in praying for the full unity of all Christians.

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