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With profound and sincere joy I greet you and the distinguished party accompanying you, and I am pleased to do so with the words expressed in the Second Letter of St. Peter: "To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2:1-2).
The celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome, as well as that of St. Andrew, patron of the Church of Constantinople, offer us annually the possibility of an exchange of visits, which are always important occasions for fraternal conversations and common moments of prayer. Thus reciprocal personal knowledge grows; initiatives are harmonized and hope increases, which animates everything, to be able to attain full unity soon, in obedience to the Lord's mandate.
This year, here in Rome, to the patronal feast is added the joyful occasion of the opening of the Pauline Year, which I wanted to call to commemorate the second millennium of the birth of St. Paul, in the hope of promoting an ever more profound reflection on the theological and spiritual heritage left to the Church by the Apostle to the Gentiles, with his vast and profound work of evangelization.
I learned with pleasure that Your Holiness has also called a Pauline Year. This happy coincidence highlights the roots of our shared Christian vocation and the significant harmony of feelings and pastoral commitment we are experiencing. For this I give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, who guides our path to unity with the strength of His Spirit.
St. Paul reminds us that full communion between all Christians has its foundation in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). May the common faith, the one baptism for the remission of sins and obedience to the one Lord and Savior, be able to express themselves fully as soon as possible in the communal and ecclesial dimension.
"Only one body and one Spirit," affirms the Apostle to the Gentiles, and adds: "As only one is the hope to which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:4). St. Paul indicates to us, moreover, a sure way to maintain unity and, in the case of division, to repair it.
The decree on ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, has taken up the Pauline indication and proposes it again in the context of the ecumenical commitment, making reference to the weighty and always current words of the Letter to the Ephesians: "I exhort you, therefore, I who am a prisoner of the Lord, to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the vocation you have received, with all humility, meekness and patience, enduring events with love, seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (4:1-3).
To the Corinthians, among whom discord had arisen, St. Paul does not hesitate to address a strong call for them all to remain in agreement, for there to be no divisions among them, and for them to unite in the same mind and purpose (cfr1 Corinthians 1:10).
In our world, in which the phenomenon of globalization is being consolidated, yet, despite this, persistent divisions and conflicts continue, men and women feel a growing need for certainty and peace. However, at the same time, they remain lost, as if ensnared by a certain form of hedonist and relativist culture which casts doubt upon the very existence of truth.
The apostle's guidance in this matter is extremely helpful in encouraging efforts aimed at seeking full unity among Christians, which is so necessary in order to offer mankind of the third millennium an ever more resplendent witness of Christ, way, truth and life. Only in Christ and in his Gospel can humanity find the answer to its deepest hopes.
May the Pauline Year, which will begin solemnly this evening, help Christian people renew the ecumenical commitment, and may there be an intensification of joint efforts on the journey to the full communion of all Christ's disciples. And as part of that journey, your presence here today is certainly an encouraging sign. For this I express again to all of you my joy, while together we raise our grateful prayer to the Lord.
[Translation by ZENIT]