Pope Francis concludes week of prayer for Christian unity in Rome
On Sunday evening, Pope Francis gathered with the faithful of the diocese of Rome and with the representatives of the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to mark the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The theme of the week this year is: “Give me a drink” (Jn 4:10). It is taken from St. John’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.
Addressing Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed and Evangelical leaders together with cardinals, priests, religious and Catholic laity, Pope Francis pointed to Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria as the model for dialogue among Christians.
“Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her. His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity.”
The Pope also asked the assembled leaders to remember that: “the mystery of love is the deepest ground of the unity which binds all Christians and is much greater than their historical divisions.”
Having all received the life-giving gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, Pope Francis therefore invited them to be united in their missionary efforts to bring Christ to a world that is thirsting for God.
“Today there are so many men and women around us who are weary and thirsting, and who ask us Christians to give them something to drink. It is a request which we cannot evade.”
“All of us,” he said, “are at the service of the one Gospel.”
Here below we publish the full text of the Pope’s homily at Vespers.
On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus passes through Samaria. He has no problem dealing with Samaritans, who were considered by the Jews to be heretics, schismatics, separated. His attitude tells us that encounter with those who are different from ourselves can make us grow.
Weary from his journey, Jesus does not hesitate to ask the Samaritan woman for something to drink. His thirst, however, is much more than physical: it is also a thirst for encounter, a desire to enter into dialogue with that woman and to invite her to make a journey of interior conversion. Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her. His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity.
The woman of Sychar asks Jesus about the place where God is truly worshiped. Jesus does not side with the mountain or the temple, but goes to the heart of the matter, breaking down every wall of division. He speaks instead of the meaning of true worship: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24). So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. Christian unity will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions. We need to realize that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts.