· Vatican City ·

Journeying together in the spirit of unity

 Journeying together in the spirit of unity  ING-016
19 April 2024

Archbishop Flavio Pace, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, addressed participants on Thursday, 18 April, during the multi-day Fourth Global Gathering of the Global Christian Forum in Accra, Ghana. The Archbishop began by conveying the Dicastery’s “heartfelt gratitude to the gcf International Secretariat, the local hosting Committee”, and everyone involved in the preparation of “this significant ecumenical event”.

“This gathering”, the Archbishop noted, “brings together Christian leaders from around the world, representing a rich tapestry of Christianity, including Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Independent churches, and ecumenical organizations. It reflects our global diversity, encompassing various ecclesial experiences and personal charisms. For twenty-five years”, he added, “the Global Christian Forum has provided an ‘open space’ where representatives from all streams of global Christianity can meet to nurture mutual respect, share personal and ecclesial faith stories, address common challenges and aspirations, and explore fresh ways of promoting Christian unity in a time of significant shifts in global Christianity”.

He noted the gcf ’s value as an ecumenical tool “focusing on the sharing of living faith and promoting personal relations among Christian leaders”. Although “seeking solutions to doctrinal divergences is essential for achieving full visible unity”, he continued, “exchanging faith experiences, deepening mutual understanding, and strengthening links of Christian fraternity among believers are equally vital”.

The Archbishop acknowledged the various ways in which this event is “a compelling witness” to Christian unity. “It manifests a sense of our common belonging to Christ, transcending cultural, racial, or ecclesial differences. It creates an open space where all are valued and respected as members of the same body of Christ across denominational lines. It fosters a profound sense of kinship and brotherhood when we pray together, exchange personal and ecclesial faith experiences, and discuss issues of common interest. It challenges the world’s perceptions of Christianity as merely a source of division and conflict, demonstrating the transformative power of the Gospel to bring about healing and restoration. It reflects our common longing for unity as prayed for by Jesus himself”.

Turning then to the theme chosen for the event, “That the World May Know”, taken from John 17:23b, the Archbishop said it “draws inspiration from Jesus’ prayer just before his passion and death, where he expressed his longing for unity among believers. This unity, rooted in a deep spiritual bond — our common faith in Jesus as the Lord and Saviour — reflects the unity within the Trinity itself. When Christians from diverse backgrounds come together, embracing their shared identity in Christ, they bear witness to the reconciling power of the Gospel. Their unity becomes a testimony to the power of Christian faith that transcends human differences, forming a living community of brothers and sisters rooted in brotherly love, mutual respect, and shared purpose”. He pointed out that the theme “challenges us to examine the authenticity of our Christian witness. As ambassadors of Christ, our words and actions should bear clear witness to the reality of God’s love and the transformative power of the Gospel. Living lives marked by love, compassion, and grace, we embody the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, drawing others to the knowledge of God’s love and truth”.

The Archbishop then turned his attention to the Synodal Process “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission”, which has been ongoing since 2021. “The dialogue among Christians of different communions united by one baptism”, he said, “holds a significant place in this synodal journey. It is firmly believed that ‘there can be no synodality without the ecumenical dimension’ (A Synodal Church in Mission. The Synthesis Report of the First Session, n. 7.b)”. He expressed his gratitude for the participation of several delegates from various Christian traditions in the First Session of the General Assembly of the Synod last October. “That gathering sent a clear and credible signal of the desire to journey together in the spirit of unity of faith and exchange of gifts”. The gcf Forum, he continued, “also animated by the spirit of synodality [...] fosters greater mutual understanding among different traditions and provides a space for common prayer, faith sharing, honest dialogue, and practice of fraternity. By praying and working together”, he said, “we can pool our resources, talents, and insights to address common challenges and advance the Gospel collectively”.

The Archbishop concluded by expressing his hope that the Forum will “strengthen our unity and increase our enthusiasm in testifying to our Christian faith, that the world may know that Jesus is the Lord who makes beautiful and joyful the life of those who follow him”.