May 7, 2008

The Church is alwasys in a state of Pentecost

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - In the general audience, held this mornings in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of 20,000 faithful, the Holy Father used the occasion of the visit to Rome of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, to focus his remarks on ecumenical dialogue. The Patriarch, who was present at the audience, also made a brief address in which he reflected on the same theme, also dwelling upon the history of the Armenian people.

Greeting the Patriarch in English, Benedict XVI referred to the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church, which is located in a niche of the Vatican Basilica and "serves to remind us of the severe persecutions suffered by Armenian Christians, especially during the last century. Armenia's many martyrs are a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit working in times of darkness, and a pledge of hope for Christians everywhere."

The Patriarch's presence, said the Pope, "revives our hope for the full unity of all Christians," and he noted the well-known "commitment of the Armenian Apostolic Church to ecumenical dialogue."

"These days of preparation that immediately precede the Solemnity of
Pentecost stimulate us to renew our hope in the help of the Holy Spirit to advance along the path of ecumenism. We have the certainty that the Lord Jesus never abandons us in our search for unity, because His Spirit is tirelessly at work to support the efforts we make to overcome all forms of division."

Benedict XVI went on: The Holy Spirit is "a power for the forgiveness of sins, for the renewal of our hearts and our lives. It renews the earth and creates unity where before there was division". When it descended upon the Apostles they spoke in tongues, a sign that "the Babylonian dispersion, fruit of the pride which divides mankind, was overcome in the Spirit, which is charity and gives us unity in diversity."

"Since the first moment of her existence the Church, thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, has spoken in all tongues and lived in all cultures. She destroys nothing of their history and gifts, but assumes them all in a great and new unity, which reconciles unity with the multiplicity of forms. With its power, the Holy Spirit ... unites divided man in divine charity and thus creates ... the great community which is the Church in all the world."

Pope Benedict then went on to highlight how "the Church is always, so to say, in a state of Pentecost. Gathered in the Cenacle, she prays incessantly to obtain ever new effusions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, ... and is not afraid to announce the Gospel to the furthest confines of the earth. This is why, faced with difficulties and divisions, Christians cannot resign themselves or give way to discouragement.

"This is what Christ asks of Christians: to persevere in prayer in order to keep alive the flame of faith, hope and charity, and the longing for full unity,” the Pope added. He then went on to mention his recent apostolic trip to the United States during which he had made reference "to the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement. In this period of globalisation and, at the same time, of fragmentation, 'without prayer ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul'," he said.

Finally, the Holy Father quoted St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians where it is written that "the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Today," he concluded, "we too invoke these gifts of the Spirit for all Christians, so that in the joint and generous service of the Gospel they may be a sign in the world of God's love for humanity."

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