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Papal Angelus Address on Christian Unity Sunday

“Conversion to Christ Is the Way That Will Lead … to Full Visible Unity”

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

During these days, Jan. 18-25, the Week of Prayer for Christians Unity is being observed. This year it has as its theme a passage from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, that sums up in a few words the life of the first Christian community in Jerusalem: “They persevered in the teaching of the apostles, in communion, in the breaking of the bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42). It is very significant that this [year’s] theme was proposed by the Churches and Christian communities in Jerusalem, gathered together in an ecumenical spirit. We know how many trials the brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and the Middle East have to face. Their service is thus still more precious, confirmed by the witness that, in certain cases, has ended in the sacrifice of life. So, while we welcome with joy the points of reflection offered by the communities that live in Jerusalem, we join with them and may this become for everyone a further builder of communion.

Today too, to be a sign and instrument in the world of intimate union with God and of unity among men, we Christians must base our life on these four cardinal principles: life founded on the faith of the Apostles transmitted in the living Tradition of the Church, fraternal communion, the Eucharist and prayer. Only in this way, being closely united to Christ, can the Church effectively accomplish her mission, despite the limits and failures of her members, despite the divisions, which the apostle Paul already had to confront in the community of Corinth, as the second biblical reading for this Sunday recalled: “I exhort you brothers to be united in what you say so that there are not divisions among you, but be in perfect union of thought and feeling” (1:10). The Apostle, in fact, knew that in the Christian community of Corinth discord and division had sprung up; thus, with great firmness he adds: “Is Christ divided?” (1:13). Speaking in this way he acknowledges that every division in the Church is an offense to Christ; and, at the same time, that it is always in him, the one Head and Lord, that we can find unity among ourselves, by the inexhaustible power of his grace.

This is why the Gospel’s summons is always relevant today: “Convert, because the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). The serious commitment to conversion to Christ is the way that will lead the Church, in the times disposed by God, to full visible unity. The ecumenical encounters that are increasing throughout the world are a sign of this. Here in Rome, besides various ecumenical delegations being present, tomorrow will begin a session of the Commission for Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Ancient Eastern Churches. And the day after tomorrow, the Week of Prayer for Unity Among Christians will conclude with the solemn celebration of the vespers of the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, always accompany us along this path.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
© Copyright 2011 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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