Vatican City, 22 January 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience to the Prayer Week for Christian Unity, which ends next Saturday, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It is a spiritual initiative in which Christian communities have participated for over one hundred years, and is a time dedicated to prayer for the unity of all baptised persons, in accordance with Christ's will “that they may all be one”. Every year an ecumenical group from one region in the world, under the guidance of the Ecumenical Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, suggests the theme and prepares the activities for the Prayer Week. This year the initiatives will be prepared by the Churches and Ecclesiastical Communities of Canada, who have proposed the question posed by St. Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “Is Christ divided?”
“No, Christ is not divided”, said the Holy Father. “But we must recognise sincerely, although with suffering, that our communities continue to experience divisions, which are a scandal. There is no other word for it: the divisions between Christians are a scandal”. Evoking the words of St. Paul, he added, “Each one of you is saying, 'I am of Paul', and 'I of Apollos', and 'I of Cephas', and 'I of Christ'. Even those who named Christ as their leader were not applauded by Paul, because they used Christ's name to separate themselves from others within the Christian community. But the name of Christ creates communion and unity, not division! Baptism and the Cross are central elements in our common Christian discipleship. Divisions, on the other hand, weaken the credibility and effectiveness of our commitment to evangelization”.
In his Letter, the Apostle rebukes the Corinthians for their divisions, but also gives thanks to the Lord because the community has been enriched in Jesus Christ, “in all speech and all knowledge”. “These words are not a simple formality, but rather the sign that first and foremost he sees God's gifts to the community, for which he is sincerely joyful. In spite of the suffering of divisions, which unfortunately persist to this day, we welcome Paul's words as an invitation to rejoice sincerely in the grace conceded by God to other Christians. We have experienced the same baptism, the same Holy Spirit has bestowed grace upon us, so let us rejoice!”.
“It is good to recognise the grace with which God blesses us and, moreover, to find in other Christians something which we need, something we can receive as a gift from our brothers and sisters”, continued the Bishop of Rome. The Canadian group which has prepared this Prayer Week has not invited the communities to think about what they might give to their Christian neighbours, but rather has exhorted us to encounter one another to understand what all communities can receive from time to time from the others. This requires something more. It requires humility, reflection and continual conversion. Let us follow this path, praying for Christian unity and an end to this scandal”, he concluded.