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All must strive for the goal of full unity

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 12 July 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The commitment to ecumenism is of primary importance for the Christian. It is known that Jesus prayed with heartfelt intensity at the Last Supper for the unity of his disciples: " you, Father are in me, and I in you, I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (Jn 17:21).

Jesus did not hesitate to pray to the Father for his disciples "that their unity may be complete" (Jn 17:23), in spite of the difficulties and tensions he knew they would encounter. He himself had noticed the disagreements between the Twelve even during the Last Supper, and foresaw those which were shortly to appear in the life of the Christian communities, scattered throughout such a vast and varied world. Nonetheless, he prayed for the complete unity of his followers and for this end he offered the sacrifice of his own life.

Therefore, unity is a gift of the Lord to his Church, "a people gathered together by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" as St. Cyprian effectively points out (De Orat. Dom., 23, PL 4, 536). Indeed, the Church "is a mystery that finds its highest exemplar and source in the unity of the Persons of the Trinity: the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, one God" (UR 2).

In reality, in the first community that gathered after Pentecost, we see that deep unity prevailed: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). "The community of believers were of one heart and one mind" (Acts 4:32).

2. Reading the pages of the Acts of the Apostles which describe the early experiences of life in the apostolic community, one is struck by the observation that this union and harmony owed much to Mary's presence (cf. Acts 1:13-14). Among the women present at the first gathering, she is the only one Luke mentioned by name. He did not fail to describe her as "the Mother of Jesus," thus holding her up as a sign and an intimate force of koinonia. This title conferred upon her a singular position connected to her new maternity which Christ proclaimed on the cross. Therefore, in this text it cannot be ignored that the Church's unity is expressed as fidelity to Christ, supported and protected by Mary's maternal presence.

The essential value of this unity achieved at the beginning of the Church's life will never disappear. The Second Vatican Council repeated: "Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only" (UR 1). However it must be observed that this original unity has suffered deep lacerations in the course of history.

Love of Christ must spur his followers today to reconsider together their past, to return to the way of unity with renewed vigor.

3. The New Testament writings themselves tell us that from the very beginning of the Church's life there have been divisions among Christians. Paul speaks of discord in the Church in Corinth (cf. 1 Cor 1:10-12). John complains of those who spread false teaching (cf. 2 Jn 10) or who claim the most important place in the Church (cf. 3 Jn 9-10). It was the start of a painful history, recorded in every age, with the formation of particular groups of Christians who broke away from the Catholic Church, the emergence of schisms and heresies, and the birth of "separated" Churches. These were not in communion either with the other particular churches nor with the universal Church, constituted as "one flock" under the care of "one shepherd," Christ (Jn 10:16), represented by one universal vicar, the Supreme Pontiff.

4. The ecumenical movement arose from the painful confrontation of this historical situation with the Gospel law of unity. This movement aims at restoring even visible unity among all Christians, "that the world may be converted to the Gospel and so be saved, to the glory of God" (UR 1). The Second Vatican Council gave the greatest importance to this movement, pointing out how it implies, for those who work for it, a communion of faith in the Trinity and in Christ, and a common longing for the one and universal Church (cf. UR 1). But authentic ecumenical commitment likewise requires of all Christians who are motivated by a sincere desire for communion, freedom from prejudices which hinder the development of the dialogue of charity in truth.

The Council formulates a differentiated judgment on the historical evolution of the separations. It says: "Large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church--for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame" (UR 3). This was the initial moment of separation. Subsequently, the situation changed: "The children who are born into these communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces them as brothers, with respect and affection" (UR 3).

With the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church committed herself definitively to follow the path of ecumenical research, setting herself to listen to the Spirit of the Lord. The way of ecumenism has become the way of the Church.

5. We must note further that, according to the Council, those who are separated from the Catholic Church preserve with her a certain communion--incomplete but real. In fact, those who believe in Christ and have received Baptism are rightly recognized by the children of the Catholic Church "as brothers in the Lord," even if there are differences "whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church" (UR 3). We can be united with them through several elements of great value, such as, "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too" (UR 3). All of this is the heritage of the one Church of Christ, which "subsists in the Catholic Church" (LG 8).

Even with regard to the work of evangelization and sanctification, the Council's attitude is sincere and respectful. It affirms that the Churches and ecclesial communities are not in fact deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. "For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation" (UR 3).

All this contains the impelling appeal for full unity. It is not merely a matter of gathering all the spiritual riches scattered throughout the Christian communities, as if in so doing we might arrive at a more perfect Church, the Church which God would desire for the future. Instead, it is a question of bringing about fully that Church which God already manifested in her profound reality at Pentecost. This is the goal toward which all must strive, already united in hope, prayer, conversion of heart, and, as is often demanded of us, in suffering which draws its value from the cross of Christ."

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Während ich Euch alle einlade, Euch das Anliegen um die sichtbare Einheit aller Christen in der einen, heiligen katholischen und apostolischen Kirche zueigen zu machen, richte ich nochmals meinen herzlichen Willkommensgru an Euch alle. Mit besonderer Freude begrüe ich die zahlreichen Kinder, Jugendlichen und Schüler, ebenso den Kirchenchor und die Liedertafel der Pfarrei Gaspoltshofen in Österreich. Allen gelten meine besten Wünsche für erholsame Sommer– und Ferientage. Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, Euren Lieben zu Hause sowie allen uns in diesem Augenblick geistlich Verbundenen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Teraz pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski, a w szczególności: z Nowej Huty–Mogiły nauczycieli z duszpasterstwa Ostoje – których już spotkałem w niedzielę; z Warszawy – parafię św. Stanisława Biskupa i Męczennika; z Jarosławia w archidiecezji przemyskiej – parafię Matki Bożej Bolesnej (dominikanów); również inne parafie – z archidiecezji poznańskiej (pięć parafii), prócz tego pielgrzymów z archidiecezji częstochowskiej, katowickiej, warmińskiej, lubelskiej, szczecińsko–kamieńskiej i gnieźnieńskiej oraz z diecezji gliwickiej, kaliskiej, opolskiej i włocławskiej. Szczególnie serdecznie witam dzieci niepełnosprawne z Konstancina oraz inne dzieci i młodzież z różnych miejsc Polski. Witam grupy polonijne ze Stanów Zjednoczonych, w szczególności parafię św. Antoniego Padewskiego z Chicopee oraz grupy polonijne z Niemiec.

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française et, parmi eux, le groupe venant de l’île de la Réunion. J’accueille avec joie les jeunes profitant des vacances pour découvrir la ville de Rome et pour connaître davantage le Christ et son Eglise à travers le témoignage des Apôtres Pierre et Paul, ainsi que des nombreux martyrs. Je salue notamment les servants d’autel du diocèse de Nevers et les lycéens de Tarbes. J’accorde à tous de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial welcome to the West Los Angeles Spiritual Choir and to the Texas Girls’ Choir from Fort Worth. Upon all the English–speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Scotland and the United States, I invoke the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de España y América Latina. En particular al grupo de sacerdotes españoles, a las Misioneras Claretianas, a las Carmelitas Teresianas, así como a los novicios Legionarios de Cristo y a los miembros del Movimiento Regnum Christi. También a los diversos grupos parroquiales y de estudiantes y a los peregrinos venidos de México, Puerto Rico, Colombia y Paraguay.

A todos os imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai visitatori di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo com votos de bem, graça e paz no Senhor Jesus Cristo quantos me escutam de língua portuguesa, e que participam desta Audiência. Em particular, sejam bem–vindos os numerosos Brasileiros procedentes do Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasília, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais. Saúdo, enfim, aos Portugueses da Ilha da Madeira e distintos grupos de visitantes. A todos faço votos de feliz estada em Roma, pedindo a Deus que envie abundantes dons do Alto, para o fortalecimento da vossa fé. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana

Rivolgo un saluto cordiale ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare alle Religiose di varie Congregazioni.

* * *

Sono lieto di accogliere i giovani studenti del Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere riuniti per approfondire il tema della missione alla luce della Lettera Apostolica Tertio millennio adveniente.

 * * *

Saluto poi con affetto i ragazzi e le ragazze dell’Azione Cattolica della Diocesi di Novara. Carissimi, ho apprezzato l’iniziativa di venire a Roma in occasione del IV centenario della morte di San Filippo Neri. Egli, che fu padre per tanti ragazzi, vi aiuti a lodare sempre Dio con la bontà e la gioia del cuore.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Uno speciale pensiero va, infine, ai malati, agli sposi novelli, ed ai giovani presenti. Tra questi ultimi saluto in particolare quelli provenienti da vari Paesi del mondo per partecipare al “Campo Italia” organizzato dal Multi-distretto italiano del Lions Club International e al “Summer Holiday Camp” promosso dalle Banche Centrali Europee.

Cari giovani, le vacanze siano un tempo di vera ricreazione fisica e spirituale e il divertimento eviti inutili sprechi, anche in considerazione di tanti vostri coetanei che purtroppo soffrono per la guerra e la miseria. Auguro a voi, cari malati, di affrontare con serenità i disagi che la stagione estiva spesso comporta. E voi, cari sposi novelli, possiate gustare in questo periodo qualche giorno di distensione e di intimità familiare.

Giovanni Paolo II manifesta questa mattina, durante l’udienza generale, la sua sentita partecipazione alle sofferenze delle popolazioni dello Sri Lanka coinvolte nel conflitto etnico. L’ultimo dramma si è purtroppo consumato domenica scorsa, 9 luglio. Sono state bombardate la chiesa e la scuola di Navalay, a nord di Jaffna. Almeno 60 sono le vittime tra le quali 13 bambini.
Queste le parole del Santo Padre. 

Desidero manifestare la mia sentita partecipazione alle sofferenze di tante persone coinvolte nel conflitto etnico che dilania lo Sri Lanka.

Sono vicino al dolore di chi ha perso i propri cari, domenica scorsa, nel bombardamento della chiesa e della scuola di Navalay.

Chiedo al Signore il riposo eterno per le vittime e faccio appello al rispetto delle popolazioni civili.

Esorto tutti, come già ho fatto in passato, a scegliere la strada del dialogo per risparmiare ulteriori ed inutili prove a quel caro Paese.

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