Pope Benedict XVI said today that achieving Christian unity requires more than “cordiality and cooperation” and that it must be accompanied by interior conversion.
The Pope asked for “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, he said, they “will contribute to the new evangelization and respond ever more fully to the spiritual hunger of the men and women of our time.”
He said that the “unity for which we pray requires inner conversion, both shared and individual,” and it cannot be “limited to cordiality and cooperation.” Instead, Christians must accept “all the elements of unity which God has conserved for us.”
Ecumenism, the Pope stated, is not an optional extra for Catholics but is “the responsibility of the entire Church and of all the baptized.” Christians, he said, must make praying for unity an “integral part” of their prayer life, “especially when people from different traditions come together to work for victory in Christ over sin, evil, injustice and the violation of human dignity.”
Pope Benedict then touched on the lack of unity in the Christian community, which he said “hinders the effective announcement of the Gospel and endangers our credibility.” Evangelizing formerly Christian countries and spreading the Gospel to new places will be “more fruitful if all Christians together announce the truth of the Gospel and Jesus Christ, and give a joint response to the spiritual thirst of our times,” he explained.
The Pope concluded his comments with the hope that this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will lead to “increased shared witness, solidarity and collaboration among Christians, in expectation of that glorious day when together we will all be able to celebrate the Sacraments and profess the faith transmitted by the Apostles.”