Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On Ecumenism 2006
"Moments of Great Significance in this Slow Ascent to Unity"
H.H. Benedict XVI
January 24, 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closes tomorrow, which this year
had as its theme the words of Mark's Gospel "He makes the deaf hear and
the mute speak" (Mark 7:37). We could also repeat these words, which
express the wonder of the people who witnessed the healing of the man
who could not hear or speak, on seeing the wonderful flowering of the
commitment for the re-establishment of Christian unity. On reviewing the
journey of the last forty years, we marvel at how the Lord has awakened
us from the lethargy of self-sufficiency and indifference; how he makes
us ever more able to "listen to one another" and not just "hear
ourselves"; how he has loosened our tongue so that the prayer we raise
to him has greater force of conviction for the world.
Yes, it is true, the Lord has granted me many graces and, in the light
of the Spirit, has illuminated many testimonies. They have demonstrated
that everything can be attained by praying, when we are able to obey
with trust and humility to the divine commandment of love and to adhere
to Christ's longing for the unity of all his disciples.
"The attainment of union is the concern of the whole Church, faithful
and shepherds alike," affirms the Second Vatican Council. "This concern
extends to everyone, according to his talent, whether it be exercised in
his daily Christian life or in his theological and historical search" ("Unitatis
The first common duty is prayer. By praying, and praying together,
Christians acquire a greater awareness of their condition of brothers,
even if they are still divided; and by praying we learn better to listen
to the Lord, as we can only find the path to unity by listening to the
Lord and following his voice.
Ecumenism is certainly a slow process, at times perhaps even
discouraging when one gives in to the temptation to "hear" and not to
"listen," to say half-truths, instead of having the courage to proclaim
them. It is not easy to emerge from "comfortable deafness," as if the
unaltered Gospel did not have the capacity to re-flower, reaffirming
itself as providential leaven of conversion and spiritual renewal for
each one of us.
Ecumenism, as I was saying, is a slow process; it is a gradual journey
of ascent, as are all journeys of repentance. However, it is a journey
that, after the initial difficulties and in fact in them, presents also
great moments of joy, refreshing pauses, and allows one to breathe fully
the very pure air of full communion.
The experience of these decades, in the wake of the Second Vatican
Council, shows that the search for Christian unity is realized at
different levels and in innumerable circumstances: in parishes, in
hospitals, in contacts between people, in collaboration between local
communities in all parts of the world, and especially in areas where to
carry out a gesture of good will in favor of a brother calls for great
effort and also for a purification of the memory.
In this context of hope, dotted with concrete steps toward the full
communion of Christians, are also framed the meetings and events that
constantly mark the rhythm of my ministry, the ministry of the Bishop of
Rome, shepherd of the universal Church. I would now like to review the
most significant events that took place in 2006, which were motives of
joy and gratitude to the Lord.
The year began with the official visit of the World Alliance of Reformed
Churches. The international Catholic-Reformed Commission presented a
document, for the consideration of the respective authorities, which
concluded with a process of dialogue initiated in 1970, which has
lasted, therefore, 36 years. This document is entitled "The Church as
Community of Common Testimony of the Kingdom of God."
On Jan. 25, 2006, hence, a year ago, on the solemn closing of the Week
of Prayer for Christian Unity, the delegates for Europe's ecumenism,
convoked jointly by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the
Conference of European Churches participated in the first stage of
approach to the third European Ecumenical Assembly, which will be held
on Orthodox soil, in Sibiu, in September of this year.
On the occasion of the Wednesday audiences, I have been able to receive
the delegations of the World Baptist Alliance and of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of the United States, which is faithful to its periodic
visits to Rome. I had the opportunity, moreover, to meet with the
leaders of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, which I follow with
affection, continuing that bond of friendship that united His Holiness
Ilia II with my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul
Continuing with this chronology of last year's ecumenical meetings, is
the summit of religious leaders, held in Moscow in July of 2006. Alexy
II, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, requested in a special
message the adherence of the Holy See. Useful afterward was the visit of
Metropolitan Kirill of the Patriarchate of Moscow, who expressed the
intention to reach a more explicit normalization of our bilateral
Also appreciated was the visit of the priests and students of the
College of the Diakonia Apostolica of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox
Church of Greece. I wish to recall also that in its general assembly in
Porto Alegre, the World Council of Churches dedicated ample space to
Catholic participation. On that occasion I sent a particular message.
I also wanted to send a message to the general meeting of the Methodist
World Conference in Seoul. I recall with pleasure, moreover, the cordial
visit of the secretaries of Christian World Communions, an organization
of mutual information and contact between different confessions.
Continuing with the chronology of the year 2006, we come to the official
visit last November of the archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the
Anglican Communion. I shared with him and his entourage a significant
moment of prayer in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic
With reference to the unforgettable apostolic journey to Turkey and to
the meeting with His Holiness Bartholomew I, I am pleased to recall the
numerous gestures that were more eloquent than words. I take advantage
of the opportunity to greet once more His Holiness Bartholomew I and to
thank him for the letter he wrote me on my return to Rome.
I assure him of my prayer and my commitment to act so that the
consequences will ensue of that embrace of peace, which we gave one
another during the Divine Liturgy in the church of St. George in the
The year ended with the official visit to Rome of the archbishop of
Athens and All Greece, His Beatitude Christodoulos, with whom we
exchanged demanding gifts: the icons of the "Panaghia," the All Holy,
and that of Sts. Peter and Paul embracing.
Are these not perhaps instances of lofty spiritual values, moments of
joy, of great significance in this slow ascent to unity of which I have
spoken? These moments illuminate the commitment, often silent, but
intense, that unites us in the quest for unity. They encourage us to
make every possible effort to continue on this slow but important
We commend ourselves to the constant intercession of the Mother of God
and of our protector saints so that they will support and help us not to
fail in our good intentions, so that they will encourage us to intensify
all efforts, praying and working with confidence, convinced that the
Holy Spirit will do the rest. He will give us complete unity when and
how it pleases him. And, strengthened by this confidence, let us go
forward on the path of faith, of hope and of charity. The Lord is
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several
languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes as its theme these words
from St. Mark's Gospel: "He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" (cf.
Mark 7:31-37). As we recall the wonder felt by those who witnessed
Jesus' healing of a man who could not hear or speak, we too marvel at
the remarkable growth that has taken place in ecumenical relations
during the last forty years.
The Lord has helped us to overcome our deafness, so that we can listen
profoundly to one another, and he has restored our power of speech so
that we can pray together and proclaim, the truth with conviction.
In thanking God for the many ecumenical initiatives we have witnessed at
every level of the Church's life, I want to recall some particular
events in which I have been personally involved during the past year.
I was pleased to receive visits from the World Alliance of Reformed
Churches, as well as the World Baptist Alliance and representatives of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In November I was able to
spend time in prayer with the archbishop of Canterbury.
And in Turkey I had the opportunity of visiting the Ecumenical
Patriarch, Bartholomew I, whom I greet once more, recalling our
fraternal encounter with great joy.
Through the intercession of Our Lady and all the saints, may our work
for Christian unity continue to progress, so that the Holy Spirit may
make us truly one.
I greet with affection all the English-speaking pilgrims present at
today's audience, especially the groups from Denmark and the United
States of America. I pray that your visit to Rome will deepen your faith
and hope in Christ, who alone can bring healing to our world. Upon all
of you and upon your loved ones, I invoke God's blessings of joy and
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