The year dedicated to Saint Paul which Pope Benedict XVI announced today will have an important ecumenical dimension.
Inspired by the example of the Apostle to the Nations, the Pauline Year will show “that the action of Church is credible and effective only to the extent that its members are willing to personally pay for their fidelity to Christ in every situation.”
In the Roman basilica dedicated to the Apostle to the Nations, the Pope stressed this afternoon the witness, which united Paul and Peter up to their martyrdom, during the first vespers for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul.
Planned as part of the celebrations of Saint Paul’s birthday (which historians place between 7 and 10 AD), the Pauline Year—from June 28,2008 till June 29, 2009— will be in the Pope’s words “a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events as well as pastoral and social initiatives inspired by St Paul’s spirituality.”
“There will be conferences and special studies on St Paul’s writings which will improve our understanding of the wealth of learning they contain—a real legacy for humanity redeemed by Christ. Around the world in local dioceses, shrines and places of worship, religious, educational and welfare institutions bearing St Paul’s name or inspired by him and his teachings will be able to organise similar initiatives.”
“Last but not least,” the Pope said, “a special aspect that will need much care at the different stages of the Pauline bimillenary is its ecumenical dimension. Especially involved in bringing the Good News to all the peoples, the Apostle to the Nations did all he could for the unity and harmony of all Christians. May he lead and protect us in this bimillenary celebration, helping us progress in a humble and sincere search for the complete unity of all the parts of the mystical Body of Christ.”
As if embodying that hope, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople took part in the service listening to what Benedict XVI said. It was sent by Patriarch Bartholomew to repay a visit made by a Holy See delegation to Istanbul on the occasion of the Feast Day of Saint Andrew, founder of the Orthodox Church.
“These meetings and initiative are not mere courtesy calls between Churches,” the Pope said, “but are meant to express their shared commitment to do all that is in their power to hasten the day when there will be full communion between the Christian West and East.”
“This basilica, which has seen many ecumenically charged events,” Benedict XVI noted, “reminds us of how important it is to pray together to plead for the gift of unity, something for which Saint Peter and Saint Paul devoted their entire existence till the ultimate sacrifice of their blood.”
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