WEDNESDAY
January 19, 2000
volume 11, no. 13
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
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DRAMATIC PAPAL PLEA, PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
    VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- "'Unity, Unity!' That cry, which I heard in Bucharest during my visit, comes back strongly to me now like an echo-- 'Unity, Unity!'-- in the cries of the people gathered for this ceremony: Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Evangelicals, all together crying: 'Unity!'"

    Those were the words with which Pope John Paul II improvised the conclusion of his homily at a January 18 ecumenical ceremony in Rome. Together with representatives of all the major Christian churches, the Pope prayed at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, seeking God's grace for the cause of Christian unity. The celebration marked the opening of the annual week of prayer for that same intention. The ceremony at the Roman basilica also included the opening of a Holy Door-- the final such gesture for the beginning of the Holy Year.

    "Thank you for raising your voices-- for that consoling voice of our brothers and sisters," the Pope said. "Perhaps we can now leave this basilica shouting, 'Unity! Unity!'"

    The Holy Father-- who appeared unusually energetic throughout the event-- was assisted by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey; and by the Orthodox Metropolitan Athanasius of Heliopolis, the representative of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, as he pushed open the Holy Door. More than 50 representatives of other Christian churches assisted in the ceremony.

    The participants in the ceremony, in their differing religious vestments, formed a colorful procession in the vestibule of the basilica, and were warmly applauded by a large crowd as the approached the Holy Door. After opening the door, Pope John Paul entered the basilica alone, carrying the book of the Gospel. He was soon followed by representatives of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the World Lutheran Federation.

    "We realize that we are brothers who are still divided, but with a firm determination we have placed ourselves on the path that will bring us toward full unity in Christ," the Holy Father said during the ceremony inside the basilica. Asking how the Church-- the Body of Christ-- could remain divided, he said that such divisions show "the human weakness of Christians."

    "During this year of grace," the Pontiff continued, "there should grow within each one of us the recognition of our personal responsibility regarding the breaks that have marked the history of the Mystical Body of Christ." These wounds can be healed, he continued, only by beginning with "interior conversion," so that ecumenical dialogue "goes beyond the limits of an exchange of ideas, and becomes an exchange of gifts-- a dialogue in charity and in truth."

    "Let us as Christ's pardon for everything in the history of the Church that has harmed his plan for unity," the Pope urged. The pursuit that unity, he said, could itself become an instrument of evangelization in the new millennium.

    After the Pope's homily, the representatives of the Christian churches exchanges the Kiss of Peace. The ceremony concluded with a profession of common faith, which was recited in Greek, Latin, and German by the representatives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, the Orthodox Patriarch of Romania, and the President of the Union of Utrecht.

          

January 19, 2000
volume 11, no. 13
NEWS & VIEWS

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