"As we journey towards full communion we are called to present a joint witness in the face of the increasingly complex challenges of our time, such as secularisation and indifference, relativism and hedonism, delicate ethical questions concerning the beginning and end of life, the limits of science and technology, and dialogue with other religious traditions". - Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2010 (VIS) - Yesterday evening in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father presided at the celebration of second Vespers of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The celebration marked the end of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme of which has been: "You are witnesses of these things".

The event was attended by a number of cardinals and bishops, as well as by representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities present in Rome.

In his homily Benedict XVI explained how the choice of the theme for this year's Week of Prayer - "that is, the invitation to a offer shared witness of the risen Christ in accordance with the mandate He entrusted to His disciples" - is linked "to the hundredth anniversary of the missionary conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, which many consider as a decisive event for the birth of the modern ecumenical movement".

"It is precisely the desire to announce Christ to others and to carry His message of reconciliation to the world that makes us aware of the contradiction of division among Christians". he said. "The communion and unity of the disciples of Christ is, then, a particularly important prerequisite for a more credible and effective witness".

The Holy Father explained how, "in a world characterised by religious indifference and even by a growing aversion towards the Christian faith, what is needed is new and intense evangelising activity, directed not only at peoples who have never known the Gospel, but also at those among whom Christianity is present and has become part of their history".

After then referring to "questions that still separate us from each other, and that we hope may be overcome through prayer and dialogue", the Pope explained how there nonetheless exists "a core content of Christ's message that we can announce together: the paternity of God, Christ's victory over sin and death with His cross and resurrection, and trust in the transforming action of the Spirit.

"As we journey towards full communion", he added, "we are called to present a joint witness in the face of the increasingly complex challenges of our time, such as secularisation and indifference, relativism and hedonism, delicate ethical questions concerning the beginning and end of life, the limits of science and technology, and dialogue with other religious traditions".

Pope Benedict continued: "There are other fields in which we must already show our joint witness: protecting creation, promoting peace and the common good, defending the centrality of the human person, and the commitment to defeat the poverties of our time such as hunger, indigence, illiteracy and the unequal distribution of wealth".

And he concluded: "Commitment to the unity of Christians is not just a task for the few, or an appendage to the life of the Church. Each is called to offer his or her contribution to help take those steps towards the full communion of all Christ's disciples, never forgetting that it is, above all, a gift constantly to be implored from God".

HML/CONVERSION ST. PAUL/...                                                VIS 100126 (520)

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