Vatican City, 4 March 2015 (VIS) – The Pope, before today's general audience, received in the Paul VI Hall the seventy prelates from thirty-five countries attending the 38th Congress of Bishop Friends of the Focolare Movement, which began yesterday and will conclude on 6 March. The theme of the congress is “Eucharist, mystery of communion”. The president of the Movement, Maria Voce, and the co-president Jesus Moran, were also present in the Paul VI Hall. Following greetings from Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok, Thailand, the Holy Father gave a brief address.
“You have united in Rome the friendship of this Movement and an interest in the spirituality of communion”, said the Holy Father. “Effectively, the charism of unity, typical of the Work of Mary, is strongly anchored in the Eucharist, which confers its Christian and ecclesial character. Without the Eucharist, unity would be reduced to an emotion and a solely human, psychological, sociological dynamic. Instead, the Eucharist guarantees that Christ is at the centre, that it is His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that guides our steps and our initiatives for encounter and communion”.
“As bishops, we gather our communities around the Eucharist, the dual nourishment of the Word and the Bread of Life. This is our service, and it is fundamental. The bishop is the principle of unity in the Church, but this is not possible without the Eucharist: the bishop does not gather the people around his person or his ideas, but rather around Christ, present in His Word and in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. And following Jesus, the good pastor who made Himself lamb, sacrificed and resurrected, the bishop gathers the flock entrusted to him by offering his life, assuming himself a form of Eucharistic existence.”
The Holy Father gave special thanks to the prelates from the “bloodsoaked lands” of Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. “In the suffering you live with your people, you experience the strength that comes from Jesus in the Eucharist, the strength to go ahead united in faith and hope. In the daily celebration of Mass we join with you, and we pray for you, offering Christ's Sacrifice; and in this way the many initiatives of solidarity with your Churches take on strength and meaning”.
“Dear brothers”, he concluded, “I encourage you to continue in your commitment to promoting the ecumenical path and interreligious dialogue. And I thank you for the contribution you give towards greater communion between the various ecclesial movements”.