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Thursday, January 26, 2012


VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father presided at the celebration of second Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The celebration, which marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was attended by representatives from other Churches including the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Anglican Communion and the Patriarchates of Moscow and Romania.

  In his homily Benedict XVI recalled how the theme of this year's Week of Prayer - "We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ" - was taken from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. "The significance of this mysterious transformation", the Pope explained, "is admirably expressed in Paul's personal history. Following the extraordinary event which befell him on the road to Damascus, Saul, who had stood out for the zeal with which he persecuted the nascent Church, was transformed into a tireless apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ... This transformation was not the fruit of long inner reflection nor of individual effort. It was, first and foremost, the grace of God working in its mysterious ways".

  The Holy Father pointed our that St. Paul's transformation was not limited to the field of ethics or the intellect. "It was a radical renewal of his being, similar in many ways to a rebirth. Such a transformation had its roots in his participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and took shape as a gradual conformation to Him. Aware of this, St. Paul would say: ... 'It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'".

  In his First Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle describes the Final Judgement, when the destiny of humankind will be fulfilled. "On that day all believers will be made like unto Christ and all perishable things will be transformed by His glory. ... Christ's triumph will then finally be complete, because ... death will have been definitively vanquished and, therewith, the sin which brought death into the world. ... St. Paul tells us then that, through Baptism in the death and resurrection of Christ, each man and woman shares in the victory of the One Who first vanquished death, and starts down a path of transformation which begins even now in new life, and which will reach fulfilment at the end of time".

  "As we say our prayers we trust that we too will be transformed, conformed to the image of Christ", the Pope said. "This holds particularly true for our prayers for Christian unity, ... by means of which we participate in God's plan for the Church. Everyone has the duty and responsibility to dedicate themselves to re-establishing unity. ... United in Christ, we are called to share His mission, which is to bring hope where injustice, hatred and desperation dominate. Our divisions obscure our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await with diligent hope and for which we trustingly pray, ... is an important victory for the good of the human family".

  In contrast to the prevalent idea of victory as immediate success, Benedict XVI explained the Christian view of victory as a long "process of transformation and development in goodness. It comes about in God's times, not ours, and requires profound faith and patient perseverance on our part. ... As we await the visible unity of the Church, we must be patient and trusting". This does not mean passivity and resignation, but "a ready and immediate response to every opening of communion and brotherhood which the Lord gives us".

  The Pope concluded by exhorting those present to continue the ecumenical journey. "Although at times we may have the impression that the road to full communion is still long and full of obstacles", he said, "I call upon everyone to renew their determination to follow, with courage and generosity, the unity which God wills, following the example of St. Paul who, faced with difficulties of all kinds, always maintained his faith in God. ... The journey, moreover, does not lack signs of renewed fraternity or of shared responsibility before the great problems affecting our world. All this is a reason for hope and must encourage us to continue our commitment to reach the final goal together, knowing that our efforts are not vain in the Lord".
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