John Paul II Says Christian Unity Involves All Believers

It Calls for a Change of Heart, He Tells General Audience

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The quest for unity among Christians is a task that concerns all believers and requires a change of heart, says John Paul II.



The Pope dedicated today's general audience to reflect on the theme of the current Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Christ's words "My peace I give to you."

Quoting the Second Vatican Council, the Pope said that ecumenism "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."

Continuing in a clear voice, the Pope spoke of "a 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."

The "cause of unity concerns every believer, called to form part of the one people redeemed by the blood of Christ on the cross," he told the 4,000 people gathered in Paul VI Hall.

"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," the Holy Father added.

"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," he continued. "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 face of the old and new difficulties one meets, but address them with patience and understanding, always counting on divine help," the Pope said.

"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," he added.

John Paul II recalled his pilgrimage to Damascus in 2001, when referring to the program of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which was written by Syrian Christians of the city of Aleppo.

"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," the Pope said.

After the general audience, a brief liturgical celebration took place during which prayers were recited for Christ's Church in the East and West, for the Pope and pastors of all Christian communities, and for peace.

A prayer was offered for the leaders of nations and international organizations, for their actions to be guided in solidarity, justice, and respect for creation. Prayers were also offered for those who suffer due to war, injustice and oppression.