“Among Christians, unity is always greater than conflict” was the title the Vatican News Service gave the conclusion of the 47th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I had the unforgettable privilege of attending the second vespers office for this week at St Paul’s Outside The Walls Basilica in Rome, with about 4,000 people, where I accompanied Pope Francis and the Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and many other denominational representatives. Pope Francis said that “Perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ, who cannot be divided, who wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart…to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force for our unity”.
Unexpectedly, and unforgettably the Pope took the Metropolitan and myself, alone, down to the tomb of St Paul which is in the centre of the Basilica. He held us by the elbows as he beckoned us to approach the grave, and then he indicated that we should bow, which we did for some minutes, the three of us, in that sacred space. Then we continued with vespers and at the end he took the two of us with him again and we greeted all the other church representatives. After we had recessed together he embraced and kissed the two of us with a holy kiss. These actions of his were said to be unprecedented in recent memory in that liturgy and left a deep impression on the two of us. Surely these dramatic demonstrations of unexpected love are at the heart of the quest for unity.
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Pope Francis was also being real when he said “We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to be the cause of scandal. And we are all journeying together, fraternally, on the road toward unity, bringing about unity even as we walk: That unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path to unity.”
What else do we need to say to each other, this is our text, this is our goal and this is the spirituality for our ecumenism, from the lips of someone who walks his own talk all the time, and invites us to do the same. Let us walk together now, in every way we can. That is what the Anglican Centre in Rome is all about.
(Photo credit: CNS)
The Anglican Centre in Rome is a UK
Charity with a world-wide mission.
Interim Director: The Very Revd Dr John Shepherd
Deputy Director: Revd Dr Justin Lewis-Anthony
The Anglican Centre in Rome,
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj,
Piazza del Collegio Romano 2,
00186 Roma, Italy.
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