Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unity needed to announce the Gospel to a world marked by religious indifference, Pope says

Working for Christian unity “is not a task for the few, nor a side-line activity in the life of the Church”; rather, it is necessary so that “the world may believe,” the Pope said as he spoke during the service in Saint Paul’s Basilica in Rome this afternoon, on the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian unity.

For him, such unity must be in the service of evangelisation “in a world marked by religious indifference, even a growing hostility towards the Christian faith”.

The Pope cited the example of the apostle, who faced every danger and paid every price onto death to announce the Gospel, to illustrate the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer: “You are witnesses of these things” (Lk, 24:48)

“The theme chosen for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity—bearing witness together to the Risen Christ in accordance with the mandate He gave his disciples—is tied to the centennial celebration of the Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland, an event believed by many to be the determining moment in the birth of the modern ecumenical movement.

In the summer of 1910, the Scottish capital saw more than a thousand missionaries, from various Protestant and Anglican denominations, come together to reflect on the need to reach unity in order to announce credibly the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were also joined by an Orthodox Christian. It was their desire to announce Christ to others and bring his message of reconciliation to the world that drew attention to the contradictions of Christian disunity.”

“A century after the conference in Edinburgh, the intuition of those courageous pioneers is still very much topical,” he said.

“In a world marked by religious indifference, even hostility towards the Christian faith, a new, more intense evangelisation is needed, not only among the peoples who have never known the Gospel, but also among those where Christianity is at home and part of their history.”

“Some issues do separate us,” the Pope said, “but let us hope that we may overcome them through prayer and dialogue. There is however a central theme in Christ’s message that we can announce together, namely God’s fatherhood, the victory of Christ over sin and death on the cross through resurrection, and faith in the transformative power of the Spirit. As we move towards full communion, we are called to bear witness together against challenges like secularisation and indifference, relativism and hedonism, sensitive ethical issues about the beginning and the end of life, the limits of science and technology, and the dialogue between the various religious traditions, that in our day and age are increasingly complex. There are also other fields in which we can bear witness together even now; on preserving creation, promoting the common good and peace, defending the centrality of the human person, working against the deprivations of our times like hunger, poverty, illiteracy and unfair distribution of wealth.”

“Each one is called to make his contribution on the path towards full communion of all the Disciples of Christ. No one can forget that such communion is first and foremost God’s gift that we must constantly invoke. Indeed, the force that promotes unity and the missions that stems from the fruitful and passionate meeting with the Rise is what occurred to Saint Paul on his way to Damascus, and to the 11 and the other disciples in their meeting in Jerusalem. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, help us realise Her Son’s wish as soon as possible, “so that they may all be one” (Jh, 17-21).

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