A Ukrainian soldier sits in a Kharkiv shelter with an Easter Cake A Ukrainian soldier sits in a Kharkiv shelter with an Easter Cake 

Pope: Christian Churches must unite against barbarism of war

Meeting participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pope Francis refers to wars in Ukraine and other parts of the world, saying they challenge the conscience of every Christian and every Church.

By Lisa Zengarini

In the face of the “barbarism of war”, Christian Churches are called to renew  their joint efforts for Christian unity, by witnessing to the Gospel of peace and fraternity, so as to give a credible testimony to Jesus Christ.

This was at the heart of Pope Francis’ address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which concluded on Friday.

The meeting took place from 2-6 May under the theme: “Towards an ecumenical celebration of the 1700th anniversary of Nicaea I (325-2025)".

Christians cannot walk alone

Pope Francis started his speech by noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has offered an opportunity to strengthen and renew relations between Christians.

“A first significant ecumenical result of the pandemic," he said, "was a renewed awareness of us all belonging to the one Christian family. It made us understand how close we really are to each other and how responsible we are for each other..”

He therefore stressed the need “to continue to cultivate this awareness and promote initiatives that increase this feeling of fraternity.”

Pope Francis remarked that when Christian communities forget the profound truth of brotherhood, they are seriously exposed to the risk of self-conceit and self-sufficiency “which are serious obstacles to ecumenism”.

“It is impossible for a Christian to walk alone with his own confession. We either walk together, or we can’t walk. We stand still.”

War challenges conscience of every Christian

Pope Francis then spoke about the responsibilities of Christian Churches in the face of war, referring specifically to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

He noted that this “is cruel and senseless like any war”, but “has a greater dimension and threatens the whole world, and cannot fail to challenge the conscience of every Christian and every Church.”

“We must ask ourselves: what have the Churches done and what can they do to contribute to the development of a world community, capable of creating fraternity starting from peoples and nations who live social friendship?”

Christians witnessing Gospel of peace

Recalling that the desire for Christian unity has grown in the past century from the awareness of the evils caused by Christian divisions, Pope Francis said  that, today,  “in the face of the barbarism of war, this yearning for unity must be nurtured  again.”

“Ignoring the divisions among Christians, out of habit or resignation, means tolerating the pollution of our hearts that makes the ground fertile for conflict,” he added.

“The proclamation of the Gospel of peace, that before the armies disarms the hearts, will only be more credible if announced by Christians finally reconciled in Jesus, Prince of Peace. Christians that are animated by His message of universal love and brotherhood, which goes beyond the boundaries of their own community and nation.”

Walking the synodal path with other Churches

Pope Francis then referred to the theme of the plenary focused on the upcoming 1700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325 AD) which will coincide with the Jubilee year of 2025.

Noting that this milestone event was a major accomplishment in preserving Christian unity, Pope Francis stressed that the First Council of Nicaea “must illuminate the current ecumenical path”, and expressed hope that the Jubilee celebrations may have “a relevant ecumenical dimension.”

In this regard he commended the Pontifical Council and the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, for inviting the Episcopal Conferences to look for ways to listen to the voices of “the brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations on the issues that challenge the faith and the diaconia (service, ed) in today's world” , in the current synodal process leading to the Synod of 2023.

Finally, Pope Francis reiterated the call to continue walking together on the path toward Christian unity in spite of difficulties. "Theological work is certainly very important and we must reflect - the Pope explained - but we cannot wait for theologians to agree to walk together as brothers in prayer, sharing charity work, in the search for truth. Brotherhood is for all of us”, he concluded.

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06 May 2022, 13:29