Pope Benedict XVI begins Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

2012-01-18 Vatican Radio

Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims present in the Paul VI Audience Hall on Wednesday for his weekly General Audience, Pope Benedict XVI said the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites all the Lord’s followers to implore the gift of unity. This year’s theme – We Will All Be Changed By The Victory Of Our Lord Jesus Christ – was chosen by representatives of the Catholic Church and the Polish Ecumenical Council.The Holy Father said, “Poland’s experience of oppression and persecution prompts a deeper reflection on the meaning of Christ’s victory over sin and death, a victory in which we share through faith.”

By his teaching, his example and his paschal mystery, the Lord has shown us the way to a victory obtained not by power, but by love and concern for those in need. Faith in Christ and interior conversion, both individual and communal, must constantly accompany our prayer for Christian unity.

Pope Benedict also focused on the need for all Christians to ask God for an increase of faith:

During this Week of Prayer, let us ask the Lord in a particular way to strengthen the faith of all Christians, to change our hearts and to enable us to bear united witness to the Gospel. In this way we will contribute to the new evangelization and respond ever more fully to the spiritual hunger of the men and women of our time.

Pope Benedict had greetings, as well, for pilgrims in many languages, including English, in which he bade especial welcome to a pair of groups: one, an ecumenical delegation from Finland that traditionally makes the pilgrimage to Rome during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; the other, a group of men and women in the Naval Service and Marine Corps of the United States:

I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. My special greeting goes to the Lutheran pilgrims from Finland. I also greet the group of sailors and marines from the United States. Upon all of you and your families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings!

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been celebrated for more than a century: each year from the 18th to the 25th of January. A Catholic convert, Paul Wattson, proposed the dates in 1908, because they coincide with the traditional feast of the Chair of St. Peter and feast of the conversion of St. Paul. Listen to our report: