Pope Francis has told a gathering of Christian leaders in Rome that ecumenism must begin with common prayer and is sterile without it.
The Pope has told leaders from the Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox churches that the closer all Christians are to Our Lord through prayer, then the more united we will be among ourselves.
The pontiff was speaking at a specially convened ecumenical prayer vigil on 30 September ahead of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
The assembly has brought together over 450 bishops, priests, women religious and lay Catholics for the meeting from 4-29 October on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission”.
Pope Francis speaking at the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil in St Peter’s Square on 30 September 2023 ahead of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. Christian leaders included Rev. Ann Burghardt, General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphren II (photo: CNS, Lola Gomez)
In his homily at the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil ahead of the Synod, Pope Francis spoke at length on the importance of common prayer.
“Silence is essential for the journey of Christian unity”, the pope said.
“Indeed, it is fundamental to prayer, and ecumenism begins with prayer and is sterile without it. Jesus himself prayed that his disciples may all be one. The silence that is prayer enables us to accept the gift of unity as Christ wills it…by the means he chooses, not as the fruit of our own efforts and according to purely human criteria”, he added.
Alongside Pope Francis at the prayer vigil was the Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphren II and the General Secretary of Lutheran World Federation, Rev. Ann Burghardt.
Pope Francis alongside other Christian leaders at an Ecumenical Prayer Vigil in St Peter’s Square on 30 September 2023 ahead of the Synod of Bishops. Photo: CNS.
Pope Francis told the leaders, our journey together as followers of Christ will be enriched the more we are prepared to come together in prayer.
“The more we turn together to the Lord in prayer, the more we feel that it is he who purifies us and unites us beyond our differences”, he said.
“Christian unity grows in silence before the cross, just like the seeds we will receive, which represent the different gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit on the various traditions: it is up to us to sow them, in the certainty that God alone brings about the growth”.
“They will be a sign for us, who are called in turn quietly to die to selfishness in order, through the action of the Holy Spirit, to grow in communion with God and in fraternity among ourselves”.
“As we approach the important anniversary of the great Council of Nicaea, let us ask that we may know how, like the Magi, to worship in unity and in silence the mystery of God made man, certain that the closer we are to Christ, the more united we will be among ourselves”.