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Rome Reports

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Pope on ecumenism: It's a grave sin to despise the gifts the Lord has given our brothers and sisters

Pope Francis inaugurated the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians with this ceremony at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. For these special days of prayer, a phrase from Deuteronomy has been chosen as the motto: "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue." 

The pope's homily revolved around this idea. Pope Francis explained that praising the Lord also means being fair to one's neighbor, above all, to the weak and the needy.

POPE FRANCIS “When society is no longer based on the principle of solidarity and the common good, we witness the scandal of people living in utter destitution amid skyscrapers, grand hotels and luxurious shopping centers, symbols of incredible wealth. We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: if wealth is not shared, society is divided.”

Pope Francis insisted that, although there is no full unity, all Christians are part of the Holy People of God.

POPE FRANCIS “It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us: that once we were all slaves to sin, that the Lord saved us in baptism and called us His children. It is easy to think that the spiritual grace granted us is our property, something to which we are due, our belonging.”

That's why the pope warned of the temptation Christians face to feel superior to Christians of another denomination. 

POPE FRANCIS “It is a grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters. To think that God somehow holds them

in less esteem. When we entertain such thoughts, we allow the very grace we have received to become a source of pride, injustice and division.”

The ceremony was attended by representatives of other Christian churches in Rome. Usually the pope closes this week of prayer with a similar ceremony. However, this year he opened it, because he will be in Panama for World Youth Day on Jan. 25, when the week ends.