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Pope Francis leads ecumenical prayer for Christian unity in Rome

Pope Francis concluded the 55th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.

He spent a moment praying silently before the remains of St. Paul.

The Pope was accompanied by Card. Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity; Metropolitan Polykarpos Stavropoulos, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and Anglican Bishop Ian Ernest, the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome.

Christians of different denominations gathered in the basilica to say evening prayer.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was chosen by the Council of Middle Eastern Churches: “We saw the star in the East and we came to worship Him.”

That’s why during his homily, Pope Francis encouraged all Christians to imitate the Magi, who traveled together from the East, through Jerusalem, and finally to Bethlehem, where they worshiped the newborn Jesus.

“Let us desire to journey together, supporting one another, as did the Magi. Traditionally the Magi have been portrayed with colorful robes that represent the various peoples. In them, we can see reflected our own differences, our different Christian traditions and experiences, but also our unity, which is born of the same desire: to look to heaven and to journey together on earth.”

The Pope also affirmed that “the courage of humility” is essential to attaining unity among Christians.

“That is the way: bending low, setting aside our own pretenses in order to make the Lord alone the center of everything. How many times has pride proved the real obstacle to communion.”

Because the celebration takes place on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Pope Francis also invited Christians to follow in the saint’s footsteps and “change course,” in order to find God’s “path of humility, fraternity and adoration.”

Before the final blessing, Card. Kurt Koch thanked Pope Francis for his constant support and encouragement on the ecumenical journey toward unity and reconciliation.

On his way out, the Pope stopped to greet representatives of the various Christian Churches and communities present.

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