“Let us not be afraid to put our brother before our fears!” urged Pope Francis as he concluded the 55th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on January 25, 2022. During the ecumenical vespers celebrated in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, he particularly blamed “pride” as a major obstacle to communion between the different churches.
The Bishop of Rome traditionally closes this Week of World Prayer with representatives of other denominations, including that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople — this year Metropolitan Polykarpos — and that of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome, currently Prelate Ian Ernest.
Alongside them, the head of the Catholic Church encouraged “trusting each other” despite “the mistakes of the past and mutual wounds.” He called not to follow “the politics of the world” but to “stoop,” following the example of the Magi who left “their prestige and reputation at home.” “How often pride has been the real obstacle to communion!” he lamented.
Another obstacle in the pope’s sights: “fear of the new” and “fear that the other will disturb my traditions and my consolidated patterns.” He warned against the temptation to close ourselves “in our group and to preserve ourselves.” “We need to change our ways, to reverse the course of our habits and conveniences,” he insisted.
As this year’s meditations were entrusted to the Middle East Council of Churches, the pontiff referred to the martyrs of that land, who died “without distinction of confession,” and to the “Christians who inhabit various regions ravaged by war and violence.”
Students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey and Nashotah College in the United States as well as Eastern Orthodox students who have received scholarships from the Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox Churches were present at the celebration, during which the pope also invited them not to tire of “praying together.”