The awareness that the objective of unity may seem distant, but is always the aim of the path of ecumenism and common concern for the ills of humanity, especially human trafficking, were some of the key themes in the Holy Father's encounter with His Grace Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, in the Vatican this morning.
“The Lord’s question – 'What were you arguing about on the way?' – might also apply to us. When Jesus put this question to his disciples they were silent; they were ashamed, for they had been arguing about who was the greatest among them. We too feel ashamed when we ponder the distance between the Lord’s call and our meagre response. Beneath his merciful gaze, we cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world. Our vision is often blurred by the cumulative burden of our divisions and our will is not always free of that human ambition which can accompany even our desire to preach the Gospel as the Lord commanded”.
Despite these difficulties, “The Holy Spirit gives us the strength not to grow disheartened and invites us to trust fully in the power of His works. As disciples who strive to follow the Lord, we realise that the faith has come to us through many witnesses. We are indebted to great saints, teachers and communities; they have handed down the faith over the ages and they bear witness to our common roots”.
The bishop of Rome went on to remark that yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the archbishop of Canterbury celebrated Vespers in the Church of San Gregorio al Celio, “from which Pope Gregory the Great sent forth Augustine and his monastic companions to evangelise the peoples of England, thus inaugurating a history of faith and holiness which in turn enriched many other European peoples. This glorious history has profoundly shaped institutions and ecclesial traditions which we share and which serve as a solid basis for our fraternal relations”.
“On this basis, then, let us look with confidence to the future. The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission and the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission represent especially significant forums for examining, in a constructive spirit, older and newer challenges to our ecumenical engagement. He also emphasised their shared “horror in the face of the scourge of human trafficking and forms of modern-day slavery” and thanked Archbishop Welby “for the leadership you have shown in opposing these intolerable crimes against human dignity”.
“In attempting to respond to this urgent need, notable collaborative efforts have been initiated on the ecumenical level and in cooperation with civil authorities and international organisations. Many charitable initiatives have been undertaken by our communities, and they are operating with generosity and courage in various parts of the world. I think in particular of the action network against the trafficking in women set up by a number of women’s religious institutes”. He concluded, “Let us persevere in our commitment to combat new forms of enslavement, in the hope that we can help provide relief to victims and oppose this deplorable trade. I thank God that, as disciples sent to heal a wounded world, we stand together, with perseverance and determination, in opposing this grave evil”.