Speaking to the Finnish ecumenical delegation gathered, the Pope told them that ecumenism is a journey and a “shared commitment to ecumenism is an essential requirement of the faith we profess; it stems from our very identity as Christ’s followers.”
As we make this journey, Pope Francis continued “our unity grows” and he reiterated that this common path that is tread is an irreversible one. This is not an optional way, he said.
“When we pray in common, when we join in proclaiming the Gospel and serving the poor and the needy”, the Pontiff observed, “we are walking together on the path leading to the goal of visible unity.”
The Pope pointed out that the “the theological and ecclesiological issues that still keep us apart can only be resolved in the course of the journey along this common path, without forcing matters and without being able to foresee when and how it will take place.” He also underlined that the Holy Spirit was there as a guide on this journey.
In the meantime, Pope Francis said, “we are called to do what we can to promote encounter and to resolve in charity the misunderstandings, conflicts and prejudices that have tainted our relations for centuries."
The Pope also mentioned that, “the journey towards theological consensus has been aided by the recent Declaration of the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission for Finland on the Church, Eucharist and Ministry Communion and Growth. The dialogue, he stressed, “needs to continue and to build on this beginning.”
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
This year, Pope Francis noted, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity focuses on the biblical verse, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” (cf. Deut 16:18-20).
He said, “the verb is in the plural, and it reminds us that we cannot work for justice apart from one another. In a world so deeply torn by conflict, hatred, forms of nationalism and division, our common prayer and commitment to greater justice cannot be deferred.”
In conclusion, the Pope said he was confident a shared witness of prayer and faith would prove fruitful and that the delegation’s visit would strengthen the good cooperation already existing between Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics in Finland.