VATICAN CITY, JAN 25, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, addressing the thousands of faithful assembled in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus, reflected on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the World Day of Leprosy and greeted the young people of Italian Catholic Action who, in the New Year, traditionally come to St. Peter's Square on their "Caravan of Peace" to conclude the Month of Peace.
Before the Angelus, the Pope noted that "today, feast of the conversion of the Apostle Paul, concludes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during which, in every corner of the world, Christians prayed together for the full realization of their unity according to the will of the Lord, 'Ut unum sint, that they may be one'. Christ's ardent invocation in the Cenacle continues to remind Christian communities that unity is a gift to welcome and develop in an ever deeper way." He underscored that "Christian unity has been a constant concern of my pontificate and continues to be a demanding priority of my ministry." Christ's wish "is an imperative that obliges us, the strength that sustains us, a salutary rebuke for our lethargy and narrow-mindedness."
After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father pointed out that "this afternoon, in the basilica of St. Paul's-Outside-the-Walls there will be the traditional ecumenical celebration for the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I invite everyone to unite themselves spiritually to this event."
He also underscored that today is the World Day of Leprosy and invited the faithful to pray for those with Hansen's disease.
John Paul II was then joined at his study window by two young people from Catholic Action of Rome who represented the thousands of ACR members gathered in St. Peter's Square. They read a message of affection to the Pope, thanking him for his commitment to world peace and then, joined by the Holy Father, they released two white doves, one of whom refused to fly away and sat calmly on the window sill. In off-the cuff-remarks, a visibly delighted Pope thanked the young people for their words and told them he too loved them.
ANG/CHRISTIAN UNITY:PEACE/CATHOLIC ACTION VIS 20040126 (360)