25-January-2013 -- Vatican Information Service |

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Ecumenism: Walking Beyond Barriers

Vatican City, 25 January 2013 (VIS) - This afternoon at 5:30pm, for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Benedict XVI presided over second Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. The celebration marked the closure of the 46th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year had the theme: "What does God require of us?" Many representatives from other Churches and ecclesial communities participated in the celebrations, including Metropolitan-Archbishop Gennadios (Limouris), representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Rev. Richardson, representing the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Communion in the same faith is the basis for ecumenism," the Holy Father said, emphasizing that "God gives us unity as something inseparable from the faith" and that "the profession of baptismal faith in God, the Father and Creator, who has revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, pouring out the Spirit who gives life and holiness already unites Christians. Without faith?which is first a gift from God, but also the response of human persons?the entire ecumenical movement would be reduced to a type of 'contract', to adhere to out of common interest. ... The doctrinal questions that still divide us should not be overlooked or minimized. Rather, they should be faced with courage, in a spirit of fraternity and mutual respect. Dialogue, when it reflects the priority of faith, can be open to God's action with the firm confidence that alone we cannot build unity, but that the Holy Spirit is the one who guides us toward full communion and who allows us to see the spiritual wealth present in the different Churches and ecclesial communities."

"In today's society," the Pope noted, "it seems that the Christian message seems to have less and less of an impact on personal and communal lives. This represents a challenge to all the Churches and ecclesial communities. ... While we walk toward full unity, therefore, we have to pursue a concrete collaboration between the disciples of Christ in order to further the spread of the faith in the modern world. Nowadays there is a great need for reconciliation, dialogue, and mutual understanding, for a more incisive presence in today's reality."

"True faith in God is inseparable from personal holiness as well as from the search for justice," the pontiff highlighted. After recalling that the theme for this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was proposed by the Student Christian Movement in India in collaboration with the All India Catholic University Federation and the National Council of Churches in India, he assured his prayers for all the Christians of that country who "at times are called to bear witness to their faith under difficult conditions. 'Walking humbly with God' means, first of all, walking in the radicality of faith, like Abraham, trusting in God, even placing our every hope and aspiration in Him, but it also means walking beyond barriers, beyond the hatred, racism, and social and religious discrimination that divide and damage all of society."

"Our search for unity in truth and love, should never lose sight of the perception that Christian unity is the work and the gift of the Holy Spirit and that it goes well beyond our efforts. Spiritual ecumenism, therefore, especially prayer, is at the heart of ecumenical commitment. Ecumenism, however, will never bear lasting fruit unless it is accompanied by the concrete gestures of conversion that move our conscience and favour the healing of memories and relationships. ... Genuine conversion ... is a fundamental element of our ecumenical commitment. The renewal of the inner life of our hearts and minds, which is reflected in everyday life, is crucial in any dialogue or path of reconciliation, making ecumenism a reciprocal commitment of understanding, respect, and love, 'so that the world may believe'."

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