Christians must work together to offer the faith they share to a world that seems to find it more and more difficult to believe, Pope Benedict XVI told Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant leaders.
"Unity is in itself a privileged means -- almost a requirement -- for
proclaiming the faith in an increasingly credible way to those who do
not yet know the Savior or who, having received the proclamation of the
Gospel, have almost forgotten this precious gift," Pope Benedict said
Presiding over an evening prayer service at the end of the Week of
Prayer for Christian Unity, the pope said that, even as divided
Christians continue their theological dialogues in the search for full
unity, "It is necessary to pursue concrete collaboration among the
disciples of Christ on behalf of the cause of transmitting the faith to
the modern world.
"In today's society, it seems that the Christian message has a
diminishing impact on personal and community life, and this represents a
challenge for all churches and ecclesial communities," Pope Benedict
said in his homily at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
The key to meeting the challenge, the pope said, is for Christians to
pray to God for the gift of unity and step up their efforts at
"reconciliation, dialogue and mutual understanding."
"Communion in the same faith is the basis for ecumenism," he said.
During the Year of Faith, which the pope established to encourage
Catholics to study the basic tenets of their faith and strengthen their
religious practice and witness, he said Christians should recognize and
give thanks for their shared faith in God, in Jesus as savior and in the
Holy Spirit, who sanctifies and continues to give life to the church.
"Without faith -- which primarily is a gift of God, but is also a
response of man -- the whole ecumenical movement would be reduced to a
form of 'contract' to which we adhere out of our common interests," he
Instead, ecumenism itself is an expression of faith in Jesus, who prayed that his disciples would be one, the pope said.
The theme -- "What does God require of us?" -- and reflections for the
2013 week of prayer were developed by Christians in India, working with
the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting
Christian Unity. The material highlighted the believers' biblical
obligation "to do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with God."
"True faith in God is inseparable from personal holiness, just as it is inseparable from the search for justice," the pope said.
He prayed for Christians in India, "who sometimes are called to witness
to their faith in difficult circumstances," and he said that while
walking humbly with God means trusting God completely, "it also means
walking beyond the barriers, hatred, racism and social and religious
discrimination that divide and damage the whole society."
Pope Benedict offered special greetings during the prayer service to
members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue
between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, which
include the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox,
Syrian Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian and Eritrean Orthodox
Meeting commission members earlier in the day, the pope said many of the
Oriental Orthodox faithful live in areas "where Christians, as
individuals and communities, face painful trials and difficulties which
are a source of deep concern to us all."
The pope asked the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox leaders to convey to
their faithful in the Middle East his prayers that "this land, so
important in God's plan of salvation, may be led, through constructive
dialogue and cooperation, to a future of justice and lasting peace."