Dear friends, the invitation to conversion, confirmed by St Paul's witness, resounds today, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as particularly important also on the ecumenical level. The Apostle indicates to us the spiritual attitude appropriate to being able to progress along the way of communion. He writes to the Philippians, "It is not that I have reached it yet, or have already finished my course; but I am racing to grasp the prize if possible, since I have been grasped by Christ [Jesus] (3: 12). Certainly, we Christians still have not reached the goal of full unity, but if we let ourselves be continually converted by the Lord Jesus, we will surely reach it. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the one holy Church, obtain for us the gift of a true conversion, so that as soon as possible the desire of Christ "Ut unum sint" will be realized. To you we entrust the prayer meeting at which I will preside this afternoon in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, and in which will participate, as every year, the representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities present at Rome.
After the Angelus:
Today is the anniversary of the World Day for Those Afflicted by Leprosy, begun 55 years ago by Raoul Follereau. The Church, in Jesus' footsteps, always has a special attention for persons marked by this disease, as witnessed also by the message released some days ago by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.
I rejoice that the United Nations, with a recent Declaration by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has solicited States to care for those afflicted by leprosy and their families. On my part, I assure them of my prayers and I renew my encouragement for those who struggle with them so that they might be fully healed and socially well-integrated.
To the peoples of the various countries of Eastern Asia who are preparing to celebrate the new lunar year, I wish that they may live this feast in joy. Joy is the expression of being in harmony with oneself, and this can derive only from being in harmony with God and with his creation. May joy always live in the hearts of all the citizens of those nations, so dear to me, and radiate upon the world!
And now I greet with affection the children and the youth of Rome's Catholic Action and of several parishes and schools of the city who have come for the traditional "Caravan of Peace". I greet the Cardinal Vicar who has accompanied them. Dear youth, I thank you for your fidelity to the commitment for peace, a commitment made not only of words but also of choices and gestures, as one of your representatives will say, Miriam, who comes from Eritrea, but now is Roman and will speak to you. Now I will leave the floor to her.
Miriam reads the Catholic Action message.
Thank you Miriam for these words. Dear young people, with the help of Jesus you will always be builders of peace at home, at school, in sports and everywhere. Thanks you once again!
I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. In this year dedicated to the Apostle of all Nations, and in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us implore the Lord to help us achieve the full unity of his Body once more!
Today I also wish to mention this year’s Message for World Communications Day which was released on the eve of the Feast of St Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of Journalists. The Message concerns the new technologies which have made the internet a resource of utmost importance, especially for the so-called "digital generation". Undoubtedly, wise use of communications technology enables communities to be formed in ways that promote the search for the true, the good and the beautiful, transcending geographical boundaries and ethnic divisions. To this end, the Vatican has launched a new initiative which will make information and news from the Holy See more readily accessible on the world wide web. It is my hope that this initiative will enrich a wide range of people including those who have yet to find a response to their spiritual yearning through the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ whose message of Good News the Church bears to the ends of the earth (cf. Matthew 28: 20)!
St. Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday falls in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which is celebrated from 18 to 25 January. I cordially invite everyone to join in the prayer that Jesus addressed to the Father on the eve of his Passion: “that they may all be one... so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). This year in particular our meditation during the Week of Prayer for Unity refers to a passage of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, from which the theme was formulated: “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). We are called to contemplate Christ’s victory over sin and death, that is, his Resurrection, as an event that radically transforms all who believe in him and gives them access to incorruptible and immortal life. In addition, recognizing and accepting the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ sustains Christians in the search for full unity among themselves.
This year the resource material for the Week of Prayer for Unity has been prepared by a Polish group. Indeed Poland has lived through a long history of courageously fighting various adversities and time and again has given proof of great determination, motivated by faith. For this reason the words of the above-mentioned theme have special resonance and effectiveness in Poland. Down the centuries Polish Christians have spontaneously perceived a spiritual dimension in their desire for freedom and have understood that true victory can only be achieved if it is accompanied by a profound inner transformation. They remind us that our quest for unity can be realistically conducted if the change takes place within us first of all and if we let God act, if we let ourselves be transformed into the image of Christ, if we enter into new life in Christ who is the true victory.
The visible unity of all Christians is always a task that comes from on high, from God, a task that demands the humility of recognizing our weakness and of receiving the gift. However, to use a phrase which Bl. John Paul II liked to repeat, every gift also becomes a commitment. The unity that comes from God therefore demands of us the daily commitment to open ourselves to each other in charity.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been a central feature in the Church’s ecumenical activity for many decades. The time that we devote to prayer for the full communion of Christ’s disciples will enable us to understand more deeply that we will be transformed by his victory, by the power of his Resurrection.
Next Wednesday, as is the custom, we shall conclude the Week of Prayer with the solemn celebration of Vespers on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls at which representatives of other Churches and Christian Communities will also be present. I expect many of you to come to this liturgical encounter to renew together our prayer to the Lord, the source of unity, with filial trust, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.
After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In these days, various countries in the Far East are joyfully celebrating the lunar New Year. In the present global situation of economic and social crisis I express to all those peoples the hope that the New Year will be concretely marked by justice and peace, that it will bring relief to the suffering and, especially, that young people will offer new hope to the world with their enthusiasm and their idealism.
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. This week, Christians throughout the world mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are confident that, as St Paul says, “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Let us renew our prayer for the unity of all of Christ’s followers, and deepen our resolve to be one in him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.
I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in a special way to the parish groups and families, and I wish everyone a good Sunday. A good Sunday, a good week to you all!
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls
On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus passes through Samaria. He has no problem dealing with Samaritans, who were considered by the Jews to be heretics, schismatics, others. His attitude helps us to realize that encounter with those who are different than ourselves can make us grow.
Weary from his journey, Jesus does not hesitate to ask the Samaritan woman for something to drink. His thirst, as we know, is much more than physical: it is also a thirst for encounter, a desire to enter into dialogue with that woman and to invite her to make a journey of interior conversion. Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her. His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity. Unity grows along the way; it never stands still. Unity happens when we walk together.
The woman of Sychar asks Jesus about the place where God is truly worshiped. Jesus does not side with the mountain or the temple, but goes deeper. He goes to the heart of the matter, breaking down every wall of division. He speaks instead of the meaning of true worship: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. Christian unity – we are convinced – will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions. When the Son of Man comes, he will find us still discussing! We need to realize that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities, overcomes conflicts, reconciles differences.
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1 March 2015