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“It is easy to work each for his own group rather than for the Kingdom of God,” Pope Francis warned as he celebrated the traditional concluding vespers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on January 25, 2023, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. On the road to Christian unity, the Pope invited us not to be “impatient” or “lose hope.”
Meditating on the theme of this annual week of prayer, “Learn to do good, seek justice” (Is 1:17), the Pope recalled that it was chosen “by a group of believers in Minnesota, aware of the injustices committed against indigenous peoples in the past and African-Americans today.”
In this biblical text from Isaiah, he noted, God “rebukes us and invites us to change.” For the Pope, the Lord’s “indignation” is first of all about “our indifferent incomprehension.”
“God suffers when we, who claim to be his faithful, put our own vision before his, follow the judgments of earth rather than those of Heaven, content ourselves with external rites and remain indifferent to those he cares about most,” he said.
God is also indignant about “sacrilegious violence,” the 86-year-old Pontiff continued. “We can imagine with what pain he must witness wars and violent actions by those who profess to be Christians,” he said, inviting Christians to oppose “war, violence and injustice wherever they creep in.”
However, “it is not enough to denounce, it is also necessary to renounce evil, to pass from evil to good,” the Pope continued: a “change” that cannot take place “without God, without his grace,” because “we are not capable of freeing ourselves from our misunderstandings about God and from the violence that simmers within us.”
At the end of this day commemorating the conversion of St. Paul, Pope Francis wished that the apostle of the Gentiles “help us to change, to convert.” He asked that he give Christians “some of his indomitable courage.”
The head of the Catholic Church also welcomed the participation of many Christians of different denominations in the synodal journey launched by the Catholic Church in 2021, expressing the hope that it would be “increasingly ecumenical.”
During the celebration, which concludes the week that began on January 18, the Pontiff was surrounded by Metropolitan Polykarpos, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archbishop Ian Ernest, representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome, delegates from other Christian communities, members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations that he had received in the Vatican that morning, and Brother Alois of Taizé.