By Charles Igwe
Pope Francis extended a heartfelt invitation during an ecumenical Evening Prayer service held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Thursday evening. This event marked the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, where the Pope joined leaders and representatives from various Churches for Vespers, including Metropolitan Polycarp of Italy, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
As a symbolic gesture of Christian Unity, Pope Francis, alongside Archbishop Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, dispatched pairs of Catholic and Anglican Bishops. These bishops are actively participating in the ecumenical summit called “Growing Together,” taking place in both Rome and Canterbury. They were commissioned by the Pope and the Archbishop to continue testifying to the unity willed by God for his Church in their respective regions.
In his homily, Pope Francis emphasized that division does not originate from God but only from the devil. He drew inspiration from the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37), recounting the scholar of the law’s question to Jesus about inheriting eternal life. Using the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Pope emphasized the importance of a love that transcends past grievances, putting brothers and sisters before the rigid defense of religious structures.
Encouraging a shift in perspective, Pope Francis urged Christians to ask, “Do I act like a neighbor?” instead of questioning who their neighbor is. He highlighted the universality of brotherhood, asserting that everyone in the world is our brothers and sisters. The Pope prompted introspection into whether personal and communal spirituality is rooted in self-interest or human fraternity within the Body of Christ.
Reflecting on St. Paul’s question about inheriting eternal life, Pope Francis underlined the significance of leaving behind personal ideas and allowing God to initiate the conversion of hearts. He emphasized the need for a journey toward Christian unity that prioritizes prayer, as growth in the service of God and neighbor fosters reciprocal understanding among Christians.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis asserted that the answer to St. Paul’s question lies in prayer. Prayer for unity, he stressed, is a sacred responsibility that connects Christians with the Lord, who prayed fervently for unity. As Christians unite in prayer, the Pope urged them not to forget to pray for an end to wars, particularly in Ukraine and the Holy Land, urging believers to rise from routine and embark on a renewed journey, fulfilling the divine will “so that the world may believe.”