In South Sudan, an ecumenical pilgrimage for reconciliation and concord

“Bishop Justin Welby and Principal of the Church of Scotland, dear brothers, will be my traveling companions when, in a few weeks, we can finally, in a few weeks, go to Southern Sudan… It will be an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace. Let us pray that they inspire Christians to be weavers of harmony, able to say no to the spiral of violence and perverted and useless weapons,” the Pope said when welcoming members of the International Anglican Catholic Committee to the Vatican on May 13 ( third arc ). This is the letter of the Holy Father.

Dear brothers and sisters!

I welcome you and it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for the cordial greetings that the Co-Chairs have addressed to me on behalf of all.

Some of the words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians were quoted by Pope Paul opinion Archbishop Michael Ramsey in their joint declaration of nearly sixty years accompanies the dialogue I have had from the beginning: “Forgetting what is behind me and taking care of what is before me, I run toward the goal, toward the reward with which God calls us to receive it on high in Christ Jesus” (page 3, 13-14). In three phases, your Committee for Dialogue has sought precisely to let go of what is detrimental to our partnership and to increase the bonds that unite Catholics and Anglicans. It’s a road, sometimes fast, sometimes slow and hard. But I assure you it was and always will be One-way. This is very important.

Path is the first word I would like to think of with you. It is mentioned in your last document titled: Walking the Road Together. It is a question, as the Apostle to the Gentiles reminded us, to go forward, letting go of the things that divide us, both past and present, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and the goal He desires. It indicates to us the apparent unity between us. It is a unity to be accepted humbly, as a blessing of the soul, and to go forward along the way, supporting one another.

Ecumenical dialogue is a path: it is much more than just talking together. not Act: Do not just talk. Do. It is a matter of getting to know each other in person and not just in books, of sharing goals and difficulties, of harnessing our hands to help wounded brothers and sisters lying on the side of the ways of the world, of thinking with someone else. One look and keep the same commitment to the creation that surrounds us, to encourage one another in the difficulties of the march. This is the direction of the path. As you know, the Catholic Church began a conciliar path: for this common path to be so, the contribution of the Anglican Communion could not be diminished. We feel you are valuable travel companions.

Still on the topic of making the journey tangible, I would like to recommend an important stage for your prayers. Archbishop Justin Welby and Principal of the Church of Scotland, Dear Brothers, will be my traveling companions when, in a few weeks, we can finally go to South Sudan. A trip postponed due to the difficulties the country is going through. But my brother Justin sends his wife first to do prep and charity work. And this is the good job he does as a married couple with his wife: I thank him very much. It will be an ecumenical pilgrimage to peace. Let us pray that the Christians of South Sudan and the world will be inspired to be promoters of reconciliation, weavers of harmony, and able to say no to the corrupt and useless cycle of violence and weapons. I remember that this trip began years ago with a spiritual retreat held here in the Vatican, with the leaders of South Sudan and also with Justin and the Director of the Church of Scotland. An ecumenical road with the politicians of South Sudan.

Another word I would like to share with you: Sun. If the path indicates the way, then the gift reveals the spirit of ecumenism. The spirit of ecumenism cannot be like this [mostra o punho fechado]it should be like this [mostra a mão aberta]: Sun. Each search for deeper fellowship can, effectively, be merely an exchange of talents, as each internalizes as his own what God has planted in the other. This concern has also been at the heart of your committee’s most recent work. Thanks.

The question arises: what is the correct position so that the exchange of gifts is not reduced to some kind of formal act and circumstance? What is the correct way? Talking openly about ecclesiastical and moral issues, and confronting each other about what is uncomfortable for us, and risks, can increase distances rather than encourage encounter. Let us think, on the contrary, that this requires, as a prerequisite, humility and truth. This is how you begin, acknowledging your difficulties with humility and sincerity. Here is the first step: do not worry about appearing well and confident in front of our brother, presenting ourselves to him as we dream of being, but showing him with an open heart who we really are, and also showing our limits.

The sins that have led to our historical divisions can only be overcome by humility and truth, the pain of mutual wounds and the need for forgiveness and repentance (cf. unum sin, 34). This requires courage, but it is the spirit of the gift, because every true gift signifies condescension, requires transparency and courage, and knowing how to be open to forgiveness. Only in this way will the various exchanges of gifts and experiences help to overcome the necessary formalities and touch hearts. Only in this way will we be in harmony with the Holy Spirit, the gift of God, who gives us Himself to restore harmony, because He Himself is Harmony, who reconciles diversity into unity. A sentence in Saint Basil’s letter on the Holy Spirit comes to my mind: “Ipse harmony is”It is harmony. It is the Holy Spirit who makes chaos, let’s think of the morning of Pentecost, but then it is he who makes harmony.

The gifts of the Spirit are not for the exclusive use of those who receive them. They are blessings for all of God’s people: the grace we receive is for others as well–not for private use–and the grace others receive is essential to us. In the exchange of gifts we learn that we cannot be sufficient for ourselves without the grace given to others. May the Holy Spirit, giver of gifts, inspire you to continue your work; May each of us experience the joy and comfort of his grace. I thank you for all that you do and I ask that you please pray for me because I need it.

And before I conclude my statement, I would like to mention a quote the bishop made of a phrase to me: “Loneliness is higher than conflict.” Conflicts shut us down. We must not fall into the bondage of conflict. Therefore, the path of unity is better than conflict. On the contrary, crisis is good: we must distinguish between crisis and conflict. In our dialogue, we must enter into a crisis, and this is a good thing because the crisis is open and helps us to overcome it. But let us not fall into the conflict that leads to wars and divisions. This came to my mind when I made the quote. Thanks. Thank you.

And now I invite you, if you agree, to pray together, because speaking without prayer is not good! Let us recite the word “Our Father” each in his own language.

our father…


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