Charity Unites Christians, Pope Says
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Launches Week of Prayer Beginning Jan. 17

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2007.- Initiatives of solidarity between Christians of various Churches and ecclesial communities is an engine for the search for unity, Benedict XVI says.

The Holy Father discussed ecumenism in his address at today's general audience, held in Paul VI Hall and attended by some 6,000 people.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed in most countries Jan. 18-25, culminating with the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

This year, the Pope will close the week by presiding at a prayer meeting to be held in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, which will be attended by representatives of various Christian confessions.

The Pontiff explained in his address that Christians worldwide can make use of the supports elaborated jointly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission of Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.

The theme chosen this year is based on a proposal of South African Christians on the Gospel phrase "He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."

Hear and proclaim

Recalling that the words come from Mark's Gospel and refer to Christ's healing of a man who could not hear or speak, Benedict XVI said that "on recovering his hearing and the gift of speech, that man aroused the admiration of the others by recounting what happened to him."

"Every Christian, spiritually deaf and mute because of original sin, receives in baptism the Lord's gift who puts his fingers on the face and, in this way, through the gift of baptism, is capable of hearing the word of God and of proclaiming it to brothers," the Holy Father said.

The Pope explained: "Moreover, from that moment on, he has the task to mature in knowledge and love of Christ in order to be able to proclaim and witness the Gospel with efficacy.

"This theme, on illustrating two aspects of every Christian community's mission -- the proclamation of the Gospel and the testimony of charity -- also underlines the importance of translating Christ's message into concrete initiatives of solidarity.

"This favors the path of unity, as it can be said that every relief, even if small, which Christians offer together to their neighbor's suffering, also contributes to making more visible their communion and fidelity to the Lord's commandment."

Caring for AIDS patients

The guidelines written this year suggest ecumenical initiatives of solidarity in the care of patients with HIV/AIDS. The program was written by the Christian communities of the South African city of Umlazi where, according to some estimates, 50% of the population is infected with HIV.

In the document, the South African Christians manifest the challenge of the lack of unity of Christians, stating that although in their city there is only one court, one hospital and one cemetery, there are several churches.

Therefore, they conclude: "The HIV/AIDS pandemic and other dehumanizing forces are too strong for a divided church."

Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 December 2012 )