Pope Francis gathered with the faithful of the diocese of Rome and with representatives of the different Pentecostal Churches and Ecclesial Communities in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls to celebrate the conclusion of the week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Pope Francis prayed that the Lord would help all Christians to grow in unity, he also asked Pentecostal churches and other Christian Churches for forgiveness for their past persecution at the hands of Catholics.
“As bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to beg for mercy and forgiveness for un-Gospel-like behavior on the part of Catholics against Christians of other churches. We ask most of all for forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound on the body of Christ,” Pope Francis said.
“At the same time, I ask all my Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if, today or in the past, they were hurt by other Christians,” he said. “We cannot erase what happened, but we do not want to allow the burden of past faults to continue to poison our relationships.”
The Pope concluded the yearly Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Monday, the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. Theme for the 2016 week of prayer is : “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord”
According to the tradition, Pope Francis led the service at Rome’s Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, the burial site of the apostle Paul. Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios, representing the ecumenical patriarch, and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, representing the archbishop of Canterbury, united with the pope in prayer at St Paul’s tomb at the beginning of the service.
During his homily,the Holy Father told the faithful gathered in the Basilica that St Paul and countless Christian martyrs throughout the centuries gave their lives for their faith in Christ and now enjoy “full communion in the presence of God the father,” he also prayed the martyrs would intercede on behalf of today’s Christians to God so that they would be able to follow their footsteps.
Still speaking to the gathering he said, “Beyond the differences that still separate us, “we recognize with joy that at the origin of the Christian life there is always a call whose author is God himself.”
The path to Christian unity, he said, is not simply about drawing closer to one another, but has more to do with each person drawing closer to Christ and finding each other there.
“When all Christians of different churches listen to the word of God and try to put it into practice,” the Pope said, “they truly take important steps toward unity.”
Concluding his Catechesis he said, “It is not only the call that unites us. We are joined by the same mission: to proclaim to all the mighty acts of the Lord. Walking together and working together, we will become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord. Unity is made by walking.