Photo:Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis says unity among all Christians is, first of all, a gift of God and work of the Holy Spirit, but that we are all called to collaborate in furthering unity always and in every circumstance.

Speaking to the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from Casa Santa Marta, the Pope reminded them of St. John’s Gospel, affirming, “there must always be alive the awareness of the commitment that entails the will of Jesus expressed in His prayer to the Father on the eve of His Passion: ‘That they may all be one.’”

The dicastery’s plenary assembly was under way through Friday on the theme: “The Aim of Ecumenism: Principles, Opportunities and Challenges Fifty Years after Unitatis Redintegratio.”

Referring to the anniversary of the Vatican II document on ecumenism, the Pope said the quest for the full unity of Christians “remains a priority for the Catholic Church,” and is, therefore, “for me one of my main daily preoccupations.”

The Decree Unitatis Redintegratio was promulgated Nov. 21, 1964. Also promulgated on that date were Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church; and Orientalium Ecclesiarum, the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches.

“The whole of these three documents, so profoundly linked to one another,” Pope Francis said, “offers the vision of Catholic ecclesiology as proposed by Vatican Council II.”

Noting how Unitatis Redintegratio continues to inspire the Church’s ecumenical commitment in today’s changed scenario, Francis said, “we can rejoice over the fact that the teaching of the Council was amply received.”

On the basis of theological motivations rooted in Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church, the Pope noted how the attitude of Catholics has changed in dealings with Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities.

“At this point,” he said, “the hostility and indifference, which had dug seemingly insurmountable ditches and produced deep wounds, belong to the past, while a process of healing has been underway that enables us to receive the other as a brother or sister, in the profound unity born of Baptism.”

This change of mentality, he added, “can and must penetrate ever more profoundly in the theological teaching and pastoral practice” of the dioceses, of institutes of consecrated life, and of ecclesial associations and movements.

Growing complication

This anniversary, the Pope said, “invites us to render thanks to God for the many fruits that during this half century have been gathered, especially confirms what the Council recommended, namely, the appreciation of all that is good and true in the life of Christians of every community.”

“Christians of different Churches and ecclesial communities do their utmost together at the service of suffering and needy humanity, for the defense of human life and its inalienable dignity, for the safeguarding of Creation and against the injustices that afflict so many men and peoples,” he said.

“While giving thanks,” the Pontiff said, “we must acknowledge that as Christians, we are still divided, and that differences on new anthropological and ethical subjects render our path towards unity more complicated.”

However, he said, “we cannot yield to dejection and resignation, but must continue to trust God, who puts in the hearts of Christians seeds of love and unity, to address with renewed thrust the ecumenical challenges of today: to cultivate spiritual ecumenism, to appreciate the ecumenism of blood, to walk together in the way of the Gospel.

Spiritual ecumenism

Spiritual ecumenism, he said, lives and develops through innumerable channels, “which truly only the Lord sees, but that often we also have the joy to know.”

Francis explained, “It is a global network of moments of prayer that, at the parish and international level, diffuse in the Body of the Church the oxygen of a genuine ecumenical spirit.”

Similarly, it is a “network of gestures, which sees us unite, working together in many works of charity; and it is also a sharing of prayer, of meditations and other texts that circulate on the Web and can contribute to make mutual knowledge, respect and esteem grow.”

“Despite open questions that still separate us,” the Pope said, “there is a widespread and strong desire to walk together, to pray, to know and love the Lord, to collaborate in service and solidarity with the weak and the suffering,”

Pope Francis concluded saying, “I am convinced of this: in a common journey, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and learning from one another we can grow in the communion that already unites us.”

• Full story at Zenit.