Wednesday, January 18, 2012



VATICAN  CITY, 18 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which  begins today, was the theme of Benedict XVI's general audience celebrated  this morning in the Paul VI Hall. The Holy Father explained how this  initiative has been held annually for more than a century and brings together  Christians from Churches and ecclesial communities, who "invoke that  extraordinary gift for which the Lord Jesus prayed during the Last Supper:  ... 'That they may all be one'". (IMAGE SOURCE : RADIO VATICANA)

   The Week of Prayer - established in 1908 by Paul Wattson, founder of an  Anglican religious community who later entered the Catholic Church - "is  one of the most effective annual expressions ... of the impetus which Vatican  Council II gave to the search for full union among all Christ's disciples",  said the Pope. "This spiritual event, which unites Christians from all  traditions, increases our awareness of the fact that the unity we strive for  cannot result merely from our own efforts; rather, it is a gift we receive  and must constantly invoke from on high".

   The texts for this year's Week of Prayer have been prepared by a group of  representatives from the Catholic Church, and from the Polish Ecumenical  Council which proposed the theme of "We will all be changed by the  victory of our Lord Jesus Christ". The history of Poland - marked by  defeats and victories, by the struggle to end oppression and achieve freedom  - led the ecumenical group to reflect more deeply upon what it means to  "win" and to "lose".

   In this context the Pope pointed out that, "in contrast to 'victory'  understood in triumphal terms, Christ shows us a very different way. His  victory does not involve power and might. ... Christ speaks of victory  through love, mutual assistance and boosting the self-esteem of those who are  'last', forgotten, excluded. For all Christians, the best expression of such  humble service is Jesus Christ Himself, His total gift of self, the victory  of His love over death. ... We can share in this 'victory' only if we allow  ourselves to be transformed by God".

   Likewise, "the unity for which we pray requires inner conversion, both  shared and individual. But this must not be limited to cordiality and  cooperation; we must reinforce our faith in God; ... we must enter into the  new life in Christ, Who is our true and definitive victory; we must open to  one another, accepting all the elements of unity which God has conserved for  us; ... we must feel the pressing need to bear witness, before the men and  women of our time, to the living God Who made Himself known in Christ".

   Ecumenism, as defined by Vatican Council II and Blessed John Paul II, is  "the responsibility of the entire Church and of all the baptised, who  must augment the partial communion that already exists among Christians until  achieving full communion in truth and charity. Praying for unity ... must  then be an integral part of the prayer life of all Christians, in all times  and places, especially when people from different traditions come together to  work for victory in Christ over sin, evil, injustice and the violation of  human dignity".

   Benedict XVI also pointed out that "lack of unity among Christians  hinders the effective announcement of the Gospel and endangers our  credibility", but noted that, "as far as the fundamental truths of  the faith are concerned, there is far more that unites us than divides us.  ... This is a great challenge for the new evangelisation, which will be more  fruitful if all Christians together announce the truth of the Gospel and  Jesus Christ, and give a joint response to the spiritual thirst of our  times".

   In conclusion, the Pope exhorted the faithful to unite more intensely in  prayer during the course of the coming Week, "to increase shared  witness, solidarity and collaboration among Christians, in expectation of  that glorious day when together we will all be able to celebrate the  Sacraments and profess the faith transmitted by the Apostles".

   At the end of his audience, the Holy Father greeted a group of Italian  lawyers, encouraging them to practise their profession "in faithfulness  to the truth, which is a fundamental premise of justice".
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VATICAN  CITY, 18 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the  pastoral care of the archdiocese of Guwahati, India, presented by Archbishop  Thomas Menamparampil S.D.B., upon having reached the age limit. He is  succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop John Moolachira.

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