Pope Ends Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with Call for New Evangelisation


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(25 Jan 10 - RV) Pope Benedict XVI presided over vespers this evening marking the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul in the ancient papal basilica of St Paul's Outside-the-walls.

The Holy Father left the Vatican at sundown, crossing the Tiber and travelling by motorcade beyond the ancient Roman walls to preside at the ceremony.

There he was joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury's representative to Rome Rev. Dr. David Richardson, the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate's representative to Italy Metropolitan Gennadios as well as delegations from Rome's other Christian communities.

Together they prayed above the tomb of the Apostle to the Gentiles marking the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In his homily, Pope Benedict reiterated that "Unity is a gift of God and that it is the mission of all Christians to strive to be one". He said "the force that promotes unity and mission flows from our fruitful and exciting encounter with the Risen Lord", as happened to St. Paul on the road to Damascus.

The Pope also spoke of the one hundredth anniversary of the Missionary Conference of Edinburgh in Scotland, which is seen by many as a defining event for the birth of the modern ecumenical movement.

He said "a century later, the intuition of those brave pioneers is still relevant, in a world marked by religious indifference, and even by a growing aversion to the Christian faith".

Pope Benedict said "Christians are called to offer a common witness to address the increasingly complex challenges of our time, like secularization and indifference, relativism, hedonism, the delicate ethical issues concerning the beginning and the end of life, the limits of science and technology, dialogue with other religious traditions".

And not only, the Pope said also now Christians face the additional challenges of "the preservation of creation, the promotion of the common good and peace, defence of the centrality of the human person, commitment to overcome the miseries of our time, such hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the unequal distribution of goods".

Pope Benedict said that differences between the Christian Churches remain but he added that "hopefully they can be overcome through prayer and dialogue".

Looking forward to centenary celebrations of the Edinburgh Conference in June in Scotland, The Pope concluded by calling for "a new, intense work of evangelization, not only among people who have never known the Gospel, but also among people for whom Christianity is part of their history".