The “firm determination” to continue the ecumenical journey and the “promotion with friendship and respect among men and women of different religious traditions” was affirmed by Pope Francis to the representatives of the Churches and ecclesial communities and of other religions, who had come to Rome for the inauguration of his Petrine Ministry.
The Audience on Wednesday morning, 20 March – began with a greeting of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, whom the Pontiff then addressed, calling him, significantly, “my brother Andrew”. This afforded the Holy Father the opportunity to emphasize that the “achievement of full” unity among believers in Christ depends not only on “the plan of God”, but also on “our loyal collaboration”. In this perspective the Conciliar teaching is still of great timeliness. Not by chance did Pope Francis wish to mention it at the beginning of the meeting. Highlighting also the value of the Year of Faith, desired by Benedict XVI precisely in order “to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council” and to propose to the faithful “a sort of pilgrimage to what, for every Christian, is the essential: the transforming personal relationship with Jesus Christ”.
“Let us ask the merciful Father” he urged the representatives of the Christian Churches and communities – “to live to the full that faith we received as a gift on the day of our Baptism, and to be able to bear a free, joyful and courage witness to it. It will be our best service to the cause of unity among Christians, a service of hope for a world still scarred by divisions, clashes and rivalry”.
The Pope then addressed a special thought to Jews and Muslims. He then recalled the common responsibility for creation of the various religions – “which we must love and protect”, he said, with regard to “those who are the poorest and who are weak and suffering, to foster justice, to promote reconciliation and to build peace”.
Lastly, his invitation was “to keep the thirst for the Absolute alive in the world, not permitting a one-dimensional view of the human person according to which men and women are reduced to what they produce and consume:one of the most dangerous snares in our epoch. “We know”, he said, “how much violence has been spawned in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from humanity’s horizon”.