Pope says Christians must work, pray, convert for Christian unity

Categories: Ecumenism,Papal Movements

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By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Full Christian unity will be a gift from God, but it is something Christians themselves must work for, pray for and experience personal conversion in order to receive, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Dedicating his weekly general audience Jan. 21 to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the pope said God wants Christians to be one, but that can happen only through deeper unity with Christ.

The theme of the 2009 week of prayer was “That they may become one in your hand,” a quote from the Book of Ezekiel in which God tells the prophet to take two sticks, representing his divided people, and join them together.

“The hand of the prophet that puts the two sticks together becomes like the very hand of God who will gather and unite his people and, finally, all of humanity,” the pope said.

“We can apply the prophet’s words to Christians in the sense of an exhortation to pray, to work, to do everything possible so the unity of Christ’s disciples will be accomplished, so that our hands will become instruments of the unifying hand of God,” Pope Benedict said.

The divisions Ezekiel tried to heal were caused by different groups going their own way and “taking on customs foreign to divine law,” he said.

The prophet made it clear to the people that the restoration of their unity could occur only through their conversion and return to the ways of the Lord, the pope said.

“The vision of Ezekiel is eloquent for the entire ecumenical movement because it highlights the absolute necessity of an authentic, interior renewal in all the members of the people of God, a renewal only the Lord can accomplish, but to which we all must be open,” the pope said, because like the ancient Israelites “we, too, have picked up customs far from the word of God.”

Pope Benedict prayed that the week of prayer would “stimulate all of us toward a sincere conversion, an increasingly docile listening to the word of God and a faith that is always deeper.”

The week of prayer, he said, also is an opportunity to thank God for the progress made in ecumenical relations over the past year, particularly for the three personal meetings he had with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and for meetings with leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Pope Benedict also said, “I shared the pain of the Patriarchate of Moscow for the death of our beloved brother in Christ, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy, and I continue to remain in a communion of prayer with our brothers who are preparing to elect a new patriarch” in late January.

Looking at relations with the churches of the West, Pope Benedict said the Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches continue to discuss how they can witness better to their unity in Christ before “a world that is increasingly divided and facing many cultural, social, economic and ethical challenges.”

The pope asked people to pray with him that the ecumenical movement would intensify and that the day would come soon when Christians would be united.

“The desire that lives in our hearts is the hastening of the day of full unity, when all the disciples of the one Lord can finally celebrate together the Eucharist, the divine sacrifice for the life and salvation of the world.”

url: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0900285.htm

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