Address During Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

John Paul II Highlights Signs of Hope on Ecumenical Path

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today at the general audience, which took place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.



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1. "My peace I give to you" (see John 14:27). This year's Week of Prayer and Reflection for Christian Unity is centered on the words Jesus spoke in the Last Supper. They are, in a certain sense, about his spiritual testament. The promise made to the disciples will find its full realization in the resurrection of Christ. When appearing to the Eleven in the Cenacle, he addresses them three times with the greeting: "Peace be with you" (John 20:19).

The gift given to the apostles, therefore, is not just any kind of "peace," but Christ's very own peace: "my peace," as he said. And, to make himself understood more plainly: I give you my peace, "not as the world gives" (John 14:27).

The world longs for peace, has need of peace -- today as yesterday -- but it often seeks it with improper means, at times even with recourse to force or with the balance of opposing powers. In such situations, man lives with a heart troubled by fear and uncertainty. The peace of Christ, instead, reconciles spirits, purifies hearts, converts minds.

2. The theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was proposed this year by an ecumenical group of the city of Aleppo in Syria. This leads me to recall the pilgrimage that I had the joy of making to Damascus. In particular, I recall with gratitude the warm welcome I received from the two Orthodox patriarchs and the Greek-Catholic. That meeting still represents a sign of hope for the ecumenical path. Ecumenism, however, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, is not genuine if there is no "change of heart. For it is from renewal of the inner life of our minds, from self-denial and an unstinted love that desires of unity take their rise and develop" (decree on ecumenism "Unitatis Redintegratio," 7).

There is growing awareness of the need for a profound spirituality of peace and peacemaking, not only among those who are directly involved in ecumenical work, but among all Christians. In fact, the cause of unity concerns every believer, called to form part of the one people redeemed by the blood of Christ on the cross.

3. It is encouraging to see how the quest for unity among Christians is spreading increasingly thanks to opportune initiatives, which touch different realms of the ecumenical commitment. Among these signs of hope I am pleased to count the increase of fraternal charity and the progress noted in theological dialogues with several Churches and ecclesial communities. In the latter it has been possible to come to, in varying degrees and characteristics, important convergences on topics, which in the past, were intensely controversial.

Taking into account these positive signs, one must not be discouraged in the face of the old and new difficulties one meets, but address them with patience and understanding, always counting on divine help.

4. "Where there is charity and love, God is there": so the liturgy prays and sings this week, reliving the atmosphere of the Last Supper. From mutual charity and love spring the peace and unity of all Christians, who can make a decisive contribution so that humanity will overcome the reasons for divisions and conflicts.

Together with prayer, dear brothers and sisters, let us also feel strongly stimulated to make our own the effort to be genuine "peacemakers" (see Matthew 5:9), in the environments in which we live.

May the Virgin Mary, who on Calvary witnessed the redeeming sacrifice of Christ, help us and accompany us on this path of reconciliation and peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the following summary was read in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The words of Jesus that we have just heard are, in a certain sense, the Lord's spiritual testament. Jesus does not speak of just any kind of peace, but of his very own peace, a peace that reconciles, purifies and brings conversion.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we reflect on the need for a profound spirituality of peace and peacemaking among all believers, and we note many of the encouraging developments that have taken place in the quest for Christian unity. Mutual charity and love are the source of this unity and can make a decisive contribution towards helping the human family to overcome divisions and conflicts. May the Blessed Virgin Mary assist us and accompany us always on this path of reconciliation and peace.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at this audience, particularly the pilgrims from Denmark, Finland, Japan and the United States. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the Lord's gift of peace.