Audiences 2005-2013 40112

Wednesday, 4 January 2012: Nativity of the Lord: Mystery of Joy and Light


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am glad to welcome you at this first General Audience of the New Year and I cordially offer all of you and your families my affectionate greetings. May God, who with the birth of Christ his Son imbued the whole world with joy, provide for deeds and days in his peace. We are in the liturgical Time of Christmas, which begins on the evening of 24 December with the Vigil Mass and ends with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. The span of days is short but full of celebrations and mysteries and it all takes place around the two great Solemnities of the Lord: Christmas and Epiphany. The very names of these two feasts indicate their respective traits.

Christmas celebrates the historical event of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem. Epiphany, which came into being as a feast in the East, indicates an event but above all one aspect of the Mystery: God reveals himself in the human nature of Christ and this is the meaning of the Greek verb epiphaino, to make oneself visible. In this perspective, Epiphany calls to mind a whole series of events focused on the manifestation of the Lord: in a special way the adoration of the Magi, who recognize Jesus as the Messiah awaited, but also the Baptism in the River Jordan with its theophany — the voice of God from on high — and the miracle of the Wedding at Cana, as the first “sign” worked by Christ.

A very beautiful Antiphon of the Liturgy of the Hours unifies these three events around the theme of the wedding of Christ with his Church: “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine (Antiphon of Lauds). We can say, as it were, that on the Feast of Christmas God’s hiddenness is emphasized in the humility of the human condition, in the Child of Bethlehem, whereas in the Epiphany his manifestation is highlighted, the appearance of God through this same humanity.

In this Catechesis I would like to recall briefly several themes proper to the celebration if the Nativity of the Lord so that each one of us may quench our thirst at the inexhaustible source of this Mystery and bear fruits of life.

First of all, let us ask ourselves: what is the first reaction to this extraordinary action of God who makes himself a child, who makes himself man? I think that the first reaction can only be one of joy. “Let us all rejoice in the Lord, for our Saviour is born to the world”. The Mass on Christmas Eve begins with these words and we have just heard what the Angel said to the Shepherds: “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy” (
Lc 2,10). This is the theme with which the Gospel begins and also with which it concludes, since the Risen Jesus was to reprimand the Apostles precisely for being sad (cf. Lc 24,17) — incompatible with the fact that he remains Man for eternity. However, let us take another step; what gives rise to this joy? I would say that it is born from the heart’s wonder at seeing that God is close to us, that God thinks of us, that God acts in history; it is therefore a joy born from contemplating the face of that humble Child because we know that he is the Face of God present for ever in humanity, for us and with us. Christmas is joy because at last we see and are certain that God is the goodness, life, and truth of human beings and that he stoops down to them to lift them up to him.

God becomes so close that it is possible to see and touch him. The Church contemplates this ineffable mystery and the liturgical texts of this Season are steeped in wonder and joy; all Christmas carols express this joy. Christmas is the point at which Heaven and earth converge and the various expressions we hear in these days stress the greatness of what has came about: the remote — God who seems very remote — has become close, “The inaccessible wanted to be accessible, he who exists before time began to be in time, the Lord of the universe, veiling the greatness of his majesty, took the nature of a servant” St Leo the Great exclaimed (Sermon 2 on the Nativity of the Lord, 2.1). In that Child who needed everything as all children do, what God is — eternity, strength, holiness, life and joy — is united with what we are: weakness, sin, suffering and death.

The theology and spirituality of Christmas use a phrase to describe this event, they speak of an admirabile commercium, that is, a wondrous exchange between divinity and humanity. St Athanasius of Alexandria says: “The Son of God became man so that we might become God” (De Incarnatione, 54, 3: PG 25,192), but it is above all with St Leo the Great and his famous sermons on Christmas that this reality became the object of profound meditation.

Indeed, the Holy Pontiff says: “so that we may have recourse to that unutterable condescension of the Divine Mercy, whereby the Creator of men deigned to become man, and be found ourselves in his nature whom we worship in ours” (Sermon 8 on the Nativity: CCL 138, 139). The first act of this wondrous exchange is brought about in Christ’s humanity itself. The Word took on our humanity and in exchange human nature was raised to the divine dignity. The second act of the exchange consists in our real and intimate participation in the divine nature of the Word. St Paul says: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Ga 4,4-5). Christmas, therefore, is the feast on which God made himself so close to man as to share in his own act of being born, to reveal to him his deepest dignity: that of being a son of God. Thus the dream of humanity beginning in Paradise — we would like to be like God — is brought about in an unexpected manner not because of the greatness of man who cannot make himself God but because of the humility of God who comes down and thus enters us in his humility and raises us to the true greatness of his being. The Second Vatican Council said in this regard: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (Gaudium et Spes GS 22); otherwise it remains an enigma: what does this creature man mean?

It is only by seeing that God is with us that we can see light for our being, that we can be content to be human beings and live with trust and joy. And where does this wondrous exchange become truly present, so that it may work in our life and make it an existence of true children of God? It becomes tangible in the Eucharist. When we participate in Holy Mass we present what is ours to God: the bread and the wine, fruit of the earth, so that he will accept them and transform them, giving us himself and making himself our food, in order that in receiving his Body and his Blood we may participate in his divine life.

I would like to reflect, lastly, on another aspect of Christmas. When the Angel of the Lord appeared to the Shepherds on the night of Jesus’ Birth, Luke the Evangelist notes that “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lc 2,9); and the Prologue of John’s Gospel speaks of the Word made flesh as of the true light coming into the world, the light that can enlighten every man (cf. Jn 1,9). The Christmas liturgy is bathed in light.

Christ’s coming dispels the shadows of the world, fills the Holy Night with a heavenly brightness and reflects the splendour of God the Father on human faces. Today too. Enveloped in Christ’s light, we are insistently invited by the Christmas Liturgy to let our minds and hearts be illuminated by God who has shown the radiance of his Face. The First Preface of Christmas proclaims: “In the wonder of the incarnation your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory. In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see”. In the Mystery of the Incarnation God, having spoken and intervened in history through messengers and with signs, “appeared”, emerged from his inaccessible light to illuminate the world.

On the Solemnity of the Epiphany, 6 January, which we shall be celebrating in a few days, the Church presents a very important passage from the Prophet Isaiah: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Is 60,1-3)

It is an invitation addressed to the Church, the community of Christ, but also to each one of us, to acquire an ever livelier awareness of the mission and of the responsibility to the world in witnessing to and bringing the new light of the Gospel. At the beginning of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, we find the following words: “Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heartfelt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature, it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church” (n. 1). The Gospel is not a light to hide but to set upon a stand. The Church is not light but receives the light of Christ, receives it to be illuminated by it and to radiate it in its full splendour. And this must also happen in our personal life. Once again, I cite St Leo the Great who said on Holy Night: “Recognize, O Christian, your dignity and, enabled to share in the divine nature, do not wish to relapse into your former base condition with unworthy conduct. Remember who is your Head and to which Body you belong. Remember that you were snatched from the power of darkness and transferred into the light and into the Kingdom of God” (Sermon 1 on the Nativity, 3, 2: CCL 138, 88).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christmas means pausing to contemplate that Child, the Mystery of God who became man in humility and poverty, but above all it means welcoming within us once again that Child who is Christ the Lord, to live of his own life, to ensure that his sentiments, his thoughts and his actions are our sentiments, our thoughts and our actions. Celebrating Christmas is therefore showing the joy, the newness and the light that this Birth brought to the whole of our life, so that we too may be heralds of joy, of true newness, of the light of God to others. Once again I wish you all a Christmas Season blessed by God’s presence!

To special groups:

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors present, including the pilgrimage groups from Wales, Australia and the United States. I offer a special greeting to the priests and seminarians of the Pontifical College Josephinum. My welcome also goes to the La Salette Brothers taking part in a programme of spiritual renewal. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy, peace and prosperity for the year which has just begun. Happy New Year!

Lastly my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.I hope that you, dear young people, will be able to consider every day as a gift of God to be received with gratitude and lived with rectitude. May the New Year bring you, dear sick people, comfort in body and in mind, and may you, dear newlyweds, strive to imitate the Holy Family of Nazareth, achieving an authentic communion of love and life.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During our journey of reflection on Jesus’ prayer as it is presented in the Gospels, I would like today to meditate on the particularly solemn moment of his prayer at the Last Supper.

The temporal and emotional background of the festive meal at which Jesus takes leave of his friends is the imminence of his death, which he feels is now at hand. For some time Jesus had been talking about his Passion and had also been seeking to involve his disciples increasingly in this prospect. The Gospel according to Mark tells that from the time when he set out for Jerusalem, in the villages of distant Caesarea Philippi, Jesus had begun “to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (
Mc 8,31).

In addition, in the very days when he was preparing to say goodbye to the disciples, the life of the people was marked by the imminence of the Passover, that is, the commemoration of Israel’s liberation from Egypt. This liberation, lived in the past and expected in the present and in the future, is experienced again in family celebrations of the Passover. The Last Supper fits into this context, but with a basic innovation.

Jesus looks at his Passion, death and Resurrection with full awareness. He wishes to spend with his disciples this Supper, that has a quite special character and is different from other meals; it is his Supper, in which he gives something entirely new: himself. In this way Jesus celebrates his Pasch, anticipating his Cross and his Resurrection.

This new element is highlighted for us in the account of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John, who does not describe it as the Passover meal for the very reason that Jesus was intending to inaugurate something new, to celebrate his Pasch, which is of course linked to the events of the Exodus. Moreover, according to John, Jesus died on the cross at the very moment when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple.

What then is the key to this Supper? It is in the gestures of breaking bread, of distributing it to his followers and of sharing the cup of wine, with the words that accompany them, and in the context of prayer in which they belong; it is the institution of the Eucharist, it is the great prayer of Jesus and of the Church. However, let us now take a closer look.

First of all, the New Testament traditions of the Institution of the Eucharist (cf. 1Co 11,23-25 Lc 22,14-20 Mc 14,22-25 Mt 26,26-29), point to the prayer that introduces Jesus’ acts and words over the bread and over the wine, by using two parallel and complementary verbs. Paul and Luke speak of eucaristia/thanksgiving: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them” (Lc 22,19).

Mark and Matthew, however, emphasize instead the aspect of eulogia/blessing: “he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” (Mc 14,22). Both these Greek terms, eucaristeìn and eulogeìn, refer to the Hebrew berakha, that is, the great prayer of thanksgiving and blessing of Israel’s tradition which inaugurated the important feasts.

The two different Greek words indicate the two intrinsic and complementary orientations of this prayer. Berakha, in fact, means primarily thanksgiving and praise for the gift received that rise to God: at the Last Supper of Jesus, it is a matter of bread — made from the wheat that God causes to sprout and grow in the earth — and wine, produced from the fruit that ripens on the vine.

This prayer of praise and thanksgiving that is raised to God returns as a blessing that comes down from God upon the gift and enriches it. Thanking and praising God thus become blessing and the offering given to God returns to man blessed by the Almighty. The words of the Institution of the Eucharist fit into this context of prayer; in them the praise and blessing of the berakha become the blessing and transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus.

Before the words of the Institution come the actions: the breaking of the bread and the offering of the wine. The one who breaks the bread and passes the cup is first of all the head of the family who welcomes his relatives at table; but these gestures are also those of hospitality, of the welcome in convivial communion of the stranger who does not belong to the house.

These very gestures, in the Supper with which Jesus takes leave of his followers, acquire a completely new depth. He gives a visible sign of the welcome to the banquet in which God gives himself. Jesus offers and communicates himself in the bread and in the wine.

But how can all this happen? How can Jesus give himself at that moment? Jesus knows that his life is about to be taken from him in the torture of the cross, the capital punishment of slaves, which Cicero described as mors turpissima crucis [a most cruel and disgraceful death].

With the gift of the bread and of the wine that he offers at the Last Supper, Jesus anticipates his death and his Resurrection, bringing about what he had said in his Good Shepherd Discourse: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father” (Jn 10,17-18).

He therefore offers in anticipation the life that will be taken from him and in this way transforms his violent death into a free act of giving himself for others and to others. The violence he suffered is transformed into an active, free and redemptive sacrifice.

Once again, in prayer, begun in accordance with the ritual forms of the Biblical tradition, Jesus shows his identity and his determination to fulfil his mission of total love to the very end, and of offering in obedience to the Father’s will. The profound originality of the gift of himself to his followers, through the Eucharistic memorial, is the culmination of the prayer that distinguishes his farewell supper with his own.

In contemplating Jesus’ actions and words on that night, we see clearly that it is in this close and constant relationship with the Father that he carries out his act of bequeathing to his followers and to each one of us the sacrament of love, the “Sacramentum caritatis”.

The words: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1Co 11,24), ring out twice in the Upper Room. With the gift of himself he celebrates his Pasch, becoming the true Lamb that brings the whole of the ancient worship to fulfilment. For this reason St Paul, speaking to the Christians of Corinth, says: “Christ [our Pasch], our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Co 5,7-8).

Luke the Evangelist has retained a further precious element of the events of the Last Supper that enables us to see the moving depth of Jesus’ prayer for his own on that night: his attention to each one. Starting with the prayer of thanksgiving and blessing, Jesus arrives at the Eucharistic gift, the gift of himself, and, while he is giving the crucial sacramental reality, he addresses Peter.

At the end of the meal, he says: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lc 22,31-32).

Jesus’ prayer, when his disciples were about to be put to the test, helps them to overcome their weakness in their effort to understand that the way of God passes through the Paschal Mystery of the death and Resurrection, anticipated in the offering of the bread and the wine. The Eucharist is the food of pilgrims that also becomes strength for those who are weary, worn-out and bewildered. And the prayer was specially for Peter, so that once he had turned again he might strengthen his brethren in the faith.

Luke the Evangelist recalls that it was the very gaze of Jesus in seeking Peter’s face at the moment when he had just denied him three times which gave him the strength to continue following in his footsteps: “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord” (Lc 22,60-61).

Dear brothers and sisters, by participating in the Eucharist, we experience in an extraordinary manner the prayer that Jesus prayed and prays ceaselessly for every person so that the evil which we all encounter in life may not get the upper hand and that the transforming power of Christ’s death and Resurrection may act within us.

In the Eucharist the Church responds to Jesus’ commandment: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lc 22,19 cf. 1Co 11,24-26); she repeats the prayer of thanksgiving and praise and, with it, the words of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord. Our Eucharists are: being attracted at this moment of prayer, being united ever anew to Jesus’ prayer. From the outset, the Church has understood the words of consecration as part of the prayer prayed together to Jesus; as a central part of the praise filled with gratitude, through which the fruits of the earth and the work of man come to us anew, given by God as the Body and Blood of Jesus, as the self-giving of God himself in his Son’s self-emptying love (cf. Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, p. 128). Participating in the Eucharist, nourishing ourselves with the Flesh and Blood of the Son of God, we join our prayers to that of the Paschal Lamb on his supreme night, so that our life may not be lost despite our weakness and our unfaithfulness, but be transformed.

Dear friends, let us ask the Lord that after being duly prepared, also with the sacrament of Penance, our participation in his Eucharist, indispensable to Christian life, may always be the highest point in all our prayer. Let us ask that we too, profoundly united in his offering to the Father, may transform our own crosses into a free and responsible sacrifice of love for God and for our brethren. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I greet the many school groups from the United States present at today’s Audience, including the deacons from St Paul’s Seminary in Minnesota. My greeting also goes to the students of Carmel College in New Zealand. I welcome the participants in the Interfaith Journey from Canada. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and their families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Lastly, an affectionate thought goes to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord that we celebrated last Sunday gives us the opportunity to think back to our own baptism. Dear young people, live with joy your belonging to the Church which is the family of Jesus. Dear sick people, may the grace of baptism soothe your suffering and impel you to offer to Christ for humanity’s salvation. And you, dear newlyweds, who are starting out on your conjugal journey, found your marriage on faith, received as a gift on the day of your baptism

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 18 January 2012: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today. For more than a century it has been celebrated every year by Christians of all Churches and ecclesial communities in order to invoke the extraordinary gift for which the Lord Jesus himself prayed at the Last Supper, before his Passion: “that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (
Jn 17,21).

The practice of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was introduced in 1908 by Fr Paul Wattson, the founder of an Anglican religious community who later entered the Catholic Church. The initiative received the blessing of Pope St Pius X and was later promoted by Pope Benedict XV, who encouraged its celebration throughout the Catholic Church with the Brief Romanorum Pontificum of 25 February 1916.

The Octave of Prayer was developed and perfected in the 1930s by Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, who supported the prayer “for the unity of the Church as Christ wants her and in conformity with the instruments that he desires”. His last writings show that Abbé Couturier saw this Week as a means which enables Christ’s universal prayer “to enter and penetrate the entire Body of Christians”; it must grow until it becomes “an immense, unanimous cry of the entire People of God”, asking God for this great gift. Moreover the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is in itself one of the most effective expressions of the impetus the Second Vatican Council gave to the search for full communion among all Christ’s disciples.

May this spiritual event that unites Christians of all traditions increase our awareness that the true unity for which we strive cannot be solely the result of our own efforts but, rather, will be a gift from on high, to be ceaselessly prayed for.

Every year the booklets for the Week of Prayer are compiled by an ecumenical group from a different region of the world. I would like to reflect here on this point. This year the texts have been proposed by a joint group of representatives of the Catholic Church and of the Polish Ecumenical Council, comprised of various Churches and ecclesial communities of the country. The documentation was then revised by a committee made up of members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. This work done in two phases, is a further sign of the desire for unity that motivates Christians and of the awareness that prayer is the main way to attain full communion since if we are united in our orientation to the Lord we are on our way to unity.

The theme of this year’s Week — as we have heard — was taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “We shall all be changed ... by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1Co 15,51-58), his victory will transform us. This theme was suggested by the large Polish ecumenical group, as I mentioned, which, reflecting on its experience as a nation, chose to emphasize how strong the support of the Christian faith is in trials and upheavals, such as those that have marked the history of Poland. After much discussion, a theme was chosen which focuses on the transforming power of faith in Christ and in particular in the light of its importance to our prayers for the visible unity of the Church, the Body of Christ.

The inspiration for this reflection was drawn from St Paul’s words to the Church in Corinth. He speaks of the transitory nature of what belongs to our life in the present, marked too by the experience of the “defeat” of sin and death, in comparison with what Christ’s “victory” over sin and death in his Paschal Mystery brings to us.

The particular history of the Polish nation which experienced periods of democratic coexistence and religious freedom, as in the 16th century, was marked in the last centuries by invasions and defeats, the constant struggle against oppression and the thirst for freedom. It was all this that led the ecumenical group to reflect more deeply on the true meaning of “victory” — what victory is — and of “defeat”. Concerning “victory” understood in triumphalistic terms, Christ suggests to us a very different road that does not pass through dominance and power. Indeed, he says: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mc 9,35).

Christ speaks of a victory through suffering love, reciprocal service, help, new hope and practical comfort given to the lowliest, to the forgotten, to the outcast. For all Christians the loftiest expression of this humble service is Jesus Christ himself, the total gift that he makes of himself, the victory of his love over death, on the cross, that shines in the light of Easter morning.

Only if we let ourselves be transformed by God, only if we undertake to convert our life and if the transformation is brought about in the form of conversion can we share in this transforming “victory”. This is the reason why the Polish ecumenical group considered St Paul’s words: “We shall all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1Co 15,51-58) particularly appropriate for the theme of its meditation.

The full and visible Christian unity that we long for demands that we let ourselves be transformed and that we conform ever more perfectly to the image of Christ. The unity we pray for requires an inner conversion that is both common and personal. It is not merely a matter of cordiality or cooperation, it is necessary above all to strengthen our faith in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, who spoke to us and made himself one of us. It is necessary to enter into new life in Christ, who is our true and definitive victory; it is necessary to open ourselves to one another, understanding all the elements of unity that God keeps for us and gives us ever anew; it is necessary to be aware of the urgent need to bear witness among the people of our time to the living God, who made himself known in Christ.

The Second Vatican Council made the ecumenical search the centre of the Church’s life and activity: “The Sacred Council exhorts all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism” (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 4). Blessed John Paul II underlined the essential nature of this task, saying, “This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ's mission. Nor is it some secondary attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the very essence of this community” (Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, UUS 9).

Hence the ecumenical task is a responsibility of the entire Church and of all the baptized, who must develop the partial communion that already exists among Christians and make it grow into full communion in truth and in charity. The prayer for unity is consequently not restricted to this Week of Prayer but must become an integral part of our prayers, of the life of prayer of all Christians, in every place and in every time, especially when people of different traditions meet and work together for the victory, in Christ, over all that is sin, evil, injustice and the violation of human dignity.

Since the birth of the modern ecumenical movement, more than a century ago, there has always been a clear awareness that the lack of unity among Christians is an obstacle to a more effective proclamation of the Gospel, because it endangers our credibility. How can we give a convincing witness if we are divided?

Of course, the fundamental truths of the faith unite us far more than they divide us. Yet the divisions remain, and also concern various practical and ethical issues, giving rise to confusion and diffidence, undermining our ability to transmit the saving word of Christ. In this sense, we should remember the words of Bl. John Paul II who spoke in his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint of the damage to Christian witness and to the proclamation of the Gospel that is caused by the lack of unity (cf. nn. 98, 99). This presents an important challenge to the New Evangelization, which will be all the more fruitful when all Christians proclaim together the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give a common response to the spiritual thirst of our time.

The Church’s journey, like that of the peoples, is in the hands of the Risen Christ, victorious over death and over the injustice that he suffered in the name of all. He makes us share in his victory. He alone can transform us and change us from weak and hesitant people into strong and courageous in doing good. He alone can save us from the negative consequences of our divisions. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite everyone to join together more intensely in prayer during this Week for Unity, so that the common witness, solidarity and collaboration among Christians may increase, in the expectation of the glorious day on which we shall profess together the faith handed down by the Apostles and celebrate together the sacraments of our transformation in Christ. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. My special greeting goes to the Lutheran pilgrims from Finland. I also greet the group of sailors and marines from the United States. Upon all of you and your families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings!

I also offer a cordial greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. I invite you, dear young people, always to bear a generous witness to your faith in Christ who illumines the journey through life. May faith be a constant comfort to all of you in your suffering, dear sick people. And may the light of Christ be an effective guide for you, dear newlyweds, in your family life.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Audiences 2005-2013 40112