On Christian Unity
"Keep Alive the Flames of Faith, Charity and Hope"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the greetings Benedict XVI gave today to Catholicos Karekin II, supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and a translation of the catechesis he gave afterward during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.
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[English Greetings to Catholicos Karekin II]
It is my great joy today to greet His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and the distinguished delegation accompanying him. Your Holiness, I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit will illumine your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the important meetings you will have here, and particularly our personal conversations. I ask all who are present today to pray for God’s blessing upon this visit.
Your Holiness, I thank you for your personal commitment to the growing friendship between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church. In 2000, soon after your election, you came to Rome to meet Pope John Paul II, and a year later, you graciously received him in Holy Etchmiadzin. You came once again to Rome together with many Church leaders from East and West, for the funeral liturgy of Pope John Paul II. I am sure that this spirit of friendship will be further deepened during the coming days.
In an external niche of Saint Peter’s Basilica, there is a fine statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church. It serves to remind us of the severe persecutions suffered by Armenian Christians, especially during the last century. Armenia’s many martyrs are a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit working in times of darkness, and a pledge of hope for Christians everywhere.
Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends, together with you I implore Almighty God, through the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, to help us grow in unity, in one holy bond of Christian faith, hope and love.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As you see, among us today is His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, accompanied by a distinguished delegation. I express again my joy at having been able to welcome him this morning: His presence revives in us the hope of full unity among all Christians. I also would like to take advantage of the opportunity to thank him for the amiable welcome he recently offered in Armenia to the cardinal secretary of state. For me it is a pleasure to remember the unforgettable visit that the Catholicos made to Rome in 2000, a little after his election. In his encounter with him, my beloved predecessor, John Paul II, offered to him a distinguished relic of St. Gregory the Illuminator and then returned the visit by traveling to Armenia.
The commitment of the Apostolic Armenian Church in favor of ecumenical dialogue is known, and I am sure that this visit of the venerable supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians will contribute to intensify the fraternal friendship that unites our Churches. These days of immediate preparation for Pentecost encourages us to revive hope in the help of the Holy Spirit to advance in the path of ecumenism. We have the certainty that the Lord Jesus will never abandon us in the search for unity, given that the Spirit acts tirelessly to bolster our efforts oriented toward overcoming every division and to mend every tear in the living cloth of the Church.
This is precisely what Jesus promised to the disciples in his last days of his earthly mission, as we just heard in the Gospel passage: He assured them of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, that he would send so they will continue to experience his presence (John 14:16-17). This promise he made a reality when, after the resurrection, Jesus entered in the Cenacle, greeted the disciples with the words, "Peace be with you" and, blowing over them, he told them, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). He gave them the authority to forgive sins. The Holy Spirit, then, is presented as the power of the forgiveness of sins, of the renewal of our hearts and of our existence, and in this way renews the earth and creates unity where there was division. Afterward, at the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is shown through other signs: an impetuous wind, tongues of fire, and the apostles speaking all languages. This last one is a sign that the Spirit, who is charity and who fosters unity in diversity, has overcome the Babylonian Diaspora, fruit of the pride that separates men. From the first moment of its existence the Church spoke all languages, thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire, and lives in all cultures. It does not destroy the gifts or the history of a culture, rather it assumes them all in a great new unity, which reconciles unity with the multiplicity of forms.
The Holy Spirit, which is eternal charity, the link of unity in the Trinity, unites with its power in divine charity the dispersed men, creating in this way the great and multiform community of the Church in the entire world. In the days that passed between the Ascension of the Lord and the Sunday of Pentecost, the disciples were united with Mary in the Cenacle to pray. They knew that alone they couldn't found, organize the Church: the Church had to be established and organized by a divine initiative; it is not a creature of ours, but rather a gift of God. Only in this way is unity also created, a unity that has to grow. The Church in all times, and in particular in those nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost, unites itself spiritually in the Cenacle with the apostles and with Mary to implore incessantly the effusion of the Holy Spirit. Moved by the impetuous wind it will be capable of announcing the Gospel to the furthest confines of the earth.
For this reason, despite the difficulties and divisions, Christians cannot resign themselves, nor give in to discouragement. This is what the Lord asks us: Hold fast in prayer to keep alive the flames of faith, charity and hope, which nourish the longing for full unity. "Ut unum sint!" says the Lord. This invitation from Christ always resounds in our hearts; an invitation that I launched again in my recent apostolic trip to the United States of America, where I referred to the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement. In this time of globalization, and at the same time, of fragmentation, "without [prayer], ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul" (ecumenical encounter in the Church of St. Joseph in New York, April 18, 2008). Let us give thanks to the Lord for the goals reached in ecumenical dialogue thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. Let us be docile, listening to his voice so that our hearts, full of hope, set out without delay on the path that leads to the communion of all Christ's disciples.
St. Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, recalls that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we also invoke today over all Christians, so that in the mutual and generous service of the Gospel, they can be in the world a sign of the love of God for humanity. Let us direct, with trust, our gaze to Mary, sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, and through her, let us pray, "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love." Amen.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[After his address, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we welcome to our Audience His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, together with a delegation from the Armenian Apostolic Church. His presence among us, in these days before the Solemnity of Pentecost, spurs us to pray more fervently for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all Christians as we seek to advance along the path of ecumenism. The Risen Lord sent the Spirit upon his disciples, and from the day of Pentecost, the Church has constantly implored the Spirit’s gifts, which impel her to proclaim the Gospel before all the world. The presence and activity of the Spirit remind us that Christ never abandons his Church. The Spirit sustains our efforts to overcome division, to persevere in prayer and to work for Christian unity. Prayer is the heart and soul of the ecumenical movement. Today, let us join in thanking the Lord for the Spirit’s work in fostering ecumenical dialogue and inspiring the hope of full unity. May the gifts of the Spirit lead all Christians to serve the Gospel with generosity and to be a sign of God’s love for all humanity. With Mary, let us pray: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love! Amen."
I offer a warm welcome to the Delegates taking part in the Annual Conference of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. I am also pleased to greet the pilgrims from Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Qatar. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Scotland, Australia, India, Indonesia, Korea, Canada, Guam and the United States, I cordially invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.
[After his greetings, the Holy Father made the following appeal in Italian:]
I make my own the cry of pain and the call for assistance of the dear people of Myanmar, who without warning saw so many lives, and so much property and means of sustenance destroyed by the terrifying violence of the Cyclone Nargis.
As I already said in the message of solidarity I sent to the president of the episcopal conference, I remain spiritually close to the people affected. I would also like to repeat to everyone my call to open their hearts to pity and generosity so that, thanks to the collaboration of people who can and wish to bring help, the suffering caused by such an immense tragedy may be relieved.
(c) Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana