“ECUMENISM IS NOT OPTIONAL”

“ECUMENISM IS NOT OPTIONAL”

At the end of today’s general audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis appealed for prayers for the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

“Next Friday,” he began, “with the celebration of Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on the theme: “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,” inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20. This year too we are called to pray that all Christians return to be one family, coherent with the divine will that wishes “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Ecumenism is not optional. The intention will be to develop a common and consistent witness in the affirmation of true justice and in the support of the weakest, through concrete, appropriate and effective responses.

Almost seven years ago to the day, at the January 18, 2012 general audience, Pope Benedict explained the history of this annual week of prayer:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today. For more than a century it has been celebrated every year by Christians of all Churches and ecclesial communities in order to invoke the extraordinary gift for which the Lord Jesus himself prayed at the Last Supper, before his Passion: “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).

“The practice of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was introduced in 1908 by Fr. Paul Wattson, the founder of an Anglican religious community who later entered the Catholic Church. The initiative received the blessing of Pope St. Pius X and was later promoted by Pope Benedict XV, who encouraged its celebration throughout the Catholic Church with the Brief Romanorum Pontificum of 25 February 1916.

“The Octave of Prayer was developed and perfected in the 1930s by Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, who supported the prayer “for the unity of the Church as Christ wants her and in conformity with the instruments that he desires”. His last writings show that Abbé Couturier saw this Week as a means which enables Christ’s universal prayer “to enter and penetrate the entire Body of Christians”; it must grow until it becomes “an immense, unanimous cry of the entire People of God”, asking God for this great gift. Moreover the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is in itself one of the most effective expressions of the impetus the Second Vatican Council gave to the search for full communion among all Christ’s disciples.

“May this spiritual event that unites Christians of all traditions increase our awareness that the true unity for which we strive cannot be solely the result of our own efforts but, rather, will be a gift from on high, to be ceaselessly prayed for.

“Every year the booklets for the Week of Prayer are compiled by an ecumenical group from a different region of the world. …”

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE ON FEBRUARY MEETING TO PROTECT MINORS – PAPAL CATECHESIS ON THE LORD’S PRAYER

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE ON FEBRUARY MEETING TO PROTECT MINORS

The Holy See Press Office released the following communique this morning:

“The organizing committee of the meeting for the protection of minors in the Church, to be held in the Vatican February 21-24, 2019 in the New Synod Hall, met in Rome on Thursday, January 10. At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father received in audience the members of the committee who proceeded to update him on the preparation of the meeting. It includes plenary sessions, working groups, common prayer moments with listening to testimonies, a penitential liturgy and a final Eucharistic celebration. Pope Francis assured his presence for the entire duration of the meeting.

“The Holy Father entrusted Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. with the task of moderating the plenary sessions of the meeting.”

The ad interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, issued the following statement about that communiqué:

“The February Meeting on the protection of minors has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of the Bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors. Pope Francis knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response. The Pope wants it to be an assembly of Pastors, not an academic conference – a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering.

“It is fundamental for the Holy Father that when the Bishops who will come to Rome have returned to their countries and their dioceses that they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.

“Regarding the high expectations that have been created around the Meeting, it is important to emphasize that the Church is not at the beginning of the fight against abuse. The Meeting is a stage along the painful journey that the Church has unceasingly and decisively undertaken for over fifteen years.”

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON THE LORD’S PRAYER

Continuing his weekly general audience catechesis on the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis today began by noting “we now reflect on its very first words: ‘Our Father’. Saint Paul’s letters testify that the earliest Christians, guided by the Holy Spirit, prayed using the Aramaic word for ‘father’ that Jesus himself had used: ‘Abba’. “

“At the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, then,” Francis told the faithful in the Paul VI Hall, “we hear an echo of the voice of Jesus himself who teaches the disciples that to pray is to share in his own intimate and trusting relationship with the Father. The parable of the prodigal son shows us most vividly how Jesus wants us to understand our heavenly Father and his infinite love, mercy and forgiveness.”

The Holy Father explained that, “Indeed, there is also something maternal about this love of the Father that accompanies and nurtures the development of our new life in Christ as his adoptive sons and daughters. All the newness of the Gospel, and the very heart of our prayer as Christians, is in some sense summed up in the one word: ‘Abba’. Even in the most difficult times in our lives, may we never be afraid to turn in trust and confidence to the Father, praying in the words that Jesus taught us: ‘Abba’, ‘Our Father’.”

Following the English-language summary of the papal catechesis, Francis welcomed the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, noting especially “groups from Korea and the United States of America. In the context of the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I address a special greeting to the students of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute. My cordial greetings also go to the student priests of the Pontifical American College. On all of you I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”