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Recognize the importance of prayer

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 26 July 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The way of ecumenism is keenly felt to be an obligation by both Catholic believers and by the Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities. The Second Vatican Council adopted this course of action and in the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio , established the principles of a healthy ecumenism. Today I would like to refer to the main points, recalling that they have been set out in great detail together with practical orientations in the Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms of Ecumenism (1993) .

In the face of the divisions which have afflicted the Christian world down the centuries, it is impossible to be passive. Catholics and non-Catholics cannot but suffer acutely when they see their separations, in such contrast with Christ's heartfelt words at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 17:20-23). Of course, the constitutive unity of the Church desired by her Founder has never been lacking. It has remained unchanged in the Catholic Church, which came into being on the day of Pentecost with the gift of the Spirit to the apostles. The Church has stayed faithful to the principles of the doctrinal and community tradition which rests on the foundations of the legitimate pastors in communion with the Successor of Peter. It is a providential factor in which historical facts are intricately interwoven with theological foundations as a consequence of Christ's will. But it cannot be denied that historically, in the past as in the present, the unity of the Church does not fully show either the vigor or the extension which she could and must achieve in accordance with the requirements of the Gospel.

2. Thus, the first attitude of Christians who have this unity at heart and who are aware of the gap that exists between the unity desired by Christ and what has concretely been achieved, cannot but be to turn their eyes to heaven and to implore God to provide ever new incentives to unity with the Holy Spirit's inspiration. According to the Council's instructions, we should first of all recognize the essential value of prayer for unity. Indeed, this is not reduced to a mere form of harmony of good human relations. Jesus asked the Father for unity among believers modeled on the divine communion in which he and his Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, are "one" (Jn 17:20-21). This is a goal that can only be reached with the help of God's grace. Hence the need for prayer.

Moreover, the daily observation that ecumenical commitment takes place in an area fraught with difficulties, makes human inadequacy and the urgent need for trusting recourse to God's omnipotence all the more keenly felt. This is what we express, especially during the week that is dedicated each year to prayer for Christian unity. It is first and foremost a period of most intense prayer. It is true that this important project also fosters studies, encounters, exchanges of ideas and experiences, but its priority is always prayer.

On many other occasions also, the union of believers is the object of the Church's prayers. Indeed, it should be recalled that at the culminating moment of every Eucharistic celebration, just before Communion, the priest addresses to the Lord the prayer for the Church's unity and peace.

3. The other contribution which the Council requested from every Christian is active commitment to unity, in the first place in their thoughts and words. Catholics are urged to make "every effort to avoid expressions, judgments and actions which do not represent the conditions of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult" (UR 4). While I emphasize this important recommendation, I urge all to overcome their prejudices and to assume an attitude of effective charity and sincere esteem, accentuating the unitive rather than the divisive aspects, taking into account the defense of the whole inheritance handed down by the apostles.

Furthermore, for better mutual knowledge, it is necessary to cultivate dialogue. If this is undertaken by competent spokesmen (cf. UUS 81), it can encourage an increase of mutual esteem and understanding between the different Churches and communions and a "more intensive cooperation in carrying out any duties for the common good" (UR 4).

On the basis of dialogue and of every other ecumenical project, there should be loyal and consistent readiness to recognize expressions of grace in our brethren who are not yet in full communion with us. As the Council states: "Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren" (UR 4). Nevertheless, "in this courageous journey toward unity, the transparency and the prudence of faith require us to avoid both false irenicism and indifference to the Church's ordinances" (UUS 79). To discover and to recognize the goodness, the virtue and the yearning for an ever greater grace which are present in the other Churches also serves for our own edification.

4. If it is to be authentic and fruitful, ecumenism demands from the Catholic faithful some basic attitudes. In the first place, it demands charity, with a gaze full of compassion and a sincere desire to cooperate, wherever possible, with our brothers and sisters in the other Churches or ecclesial communities. In the second place, it requires fidelity to the Catholic Church while neither disregarding nor denying the visible failings in the conduct of some of the members. In the third place, it demands the spirit of discernment, in order to appreciate what is good and praiseworthy.

Lastly, it requires a sincere wish for purification and renewal, both through personal commitment oriented to Christian perfection and by contributing "each according to his station, playing his part that the Church may daily be more purified and renewed. For the Church must bear in her own body the humility and dying of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor 4:10; Phil 2:5-8), against the day when Christ will present her to himself in all her glory without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph 5:27)" (UR 4).

5. This is not a utopian prospect. It can and must be accomplished day after day, century after century, by person after person, however long history lasts and whatever the variety of its largely unforeseeable events. Ecumenism operates in this perspective. Thus it fits into a context broader than that of the problem of individual membership in the Catholic Church by single persons from other Christian communities whose preparation and reconciliation is not in contradiction to the ecumenical project, since "both proceed from the marvelous ways of God" (UR 4).

Let us therefore conclude this catechesis with the hope and the exhortation that all in the Church may be able to safeguard unity in the essential things and enjoy their proper freedom in research, dialogue, comparison and collaboration with all those who profess Jesus Christ the Lord. May they all always preserve charity, which remains the best expression of the will to perfect the historical expression of the Church's unity and catholicity."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli francesi

Cheres frères et sœurs,

Je souhaite la bienvenue aux pèlerins de langue française. Je salue en particulier le groupe de Tahiti qui a fait un long voyage pour venir jusqu’au lieu où les Apôtres Pierre et Paul ont rendu héroïquement le témoignage de la foi.

Que ce temps de vacances soit pour chacun d’entre vous l’occasion de découvrir Rome et la richesse de son patrimoine spirituel et artistique!

Que Dieu vous garde et qu’Il vous bénisse!

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extended a special greeting to the organizers and participants in the "Centesimus Annus" Seminar. May this experience confirm you in your commitment to building a society more firmly established in justice and solidarity. I warmly greet all the English–speaking visitors, especially the pilgrims from far–away Polynesia, from Hong Kong, and the group from Canada, accompanied by visitors from Belarus, as well as those from England, Scotland and the United States. May God abundantly bless you all!

Ai pellegrini tedeschi

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen Uberlegungen heie ich Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder deutscher Sprache, herzlich willkommen. Ich wünsche Euch in diesen Sommertagen Erholung und geistige Besinnung. Euch und Euren Lieben zu Hause erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Me es grato saludar a todas las personas de lengua española que participan en esta audiencia, especialmente a los participantes en el 5o Curso internacional de preparación para formadores de Seminarios y a los peregrinos mexicanos. De España, saludo a la peregrinación de la Familia Filipense y a la de Cartagena, a la Escolanía de Guriezo, así como a los grupos parroquiales de Nueva Carreya (Córdoba), Liria (Valencia) y Consuegra y Ajofrín, de Toledo. A todos os imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa que aqui se encontram.

A todos faço votos de feliz estada em Roma, rogando ao Senhor que saibam corresponder aos benefícios da Providência divina com uma conduta, que sirva de exemplo para nossos irmãos de outras denominações cristãs. Saúdo de modo especial o numeroso grupo de Portugueses, nomeadamente o grupo de peregrinos de Guimarães; e os Brasileiros visitantes do Rio de Janeiro e de Cuiabá. A todos desejo muita paz e felicidades, com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Serdecznie pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski. Listy szczegółowej nie odczytuję, bo już została odczytana. W szczegól ności witam: ojców z mojego miasta rodzinnego Wadowic wraz z ks. infułatem Kazimierzem Suderem, proboszczem wadowickim; pielgrzymów z Krakowa–Bieńczyc, z Nowego Sącza, z archidiecezji przemyskiej, lubelskiej, wrocławskiej, warszawskiej i szczecińsko–kamieńskiej, z diecezji łowickiej, radomskiej, włocławskiej, gliwickiej i zielonogórskogorzowskiej. Serdecznie witam również pielgrzymów z Litwy, a mianowicie z Nowej Wilejki – z parafii św. Kazimierza oraz z parafii Świętego Ducha w Wilnie, chór “Lira” z Wilna Lendwarowa. A wracając z północy na poludnie, witam jeszcze zespół “Hymy” z Nowego Targu.

Ai fedeli giapponesi

Cari pellegrini del Giappone, benvenuti a Roma.

Auspico che il vostro pellegrinaggio romano sia una buona occasione per approfondire la vostra fede, e che possiate rendere buona testimonianza di Cristo, unico Salvatore del mondo.

Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana e, in particolare, al gruppo delle Suore Maestre Pie Venerini che celebrano in questi giorni il loro Capitolo Generale.

Carissime, nell’esprimere di cuore la mia gratitudine per la vostra presenza, invoco la materna protezione della Vergine Maria sull’intera vostra Famiglia religiosa perché, sulle orme della Fondatrice, continui ad adempiere i compiti connessi con le finalità dell’Istituto, promuovendo in special modo il pieno rispetto della dignità e del ruolo della donna nell’odierna società.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Saluto poi i giovani, gli ammalati e gli sposi novelli qui presenti di qualsiasi lingua e Nazione.

Cari giovani, vi esorto ad approfittare del periodo estivo per crescere nell’amicizia con Dio e nella testimonianza di vita cristiana mediante la meditazione, la preghiera e il sano divertimento.

Invito voi, cari ammalati a tradurre nella vostra esistenza i profondi sentimenti di Cristo sofferente, trovando sempre in Lui conforto e serenità.

A voi, cari sposi novelli, esprimo l’auspicio che il vostro amore, animato da cordiale fedeltà al Vangelo, sia sempre più vero, duraturo e solidale.

Invocando su tutti la protezione di Sant’Anna e San Gioacchino, dei quali oggi celebriamo la festa, vi imparto una speciale Benedizione.

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