Practicing love toward one another is essential, Pope Francis said in a video message to a gathering of the John 17 Movement, an ecumenical group, on Wednesday.

“Love has no need for profound theological knowledge, which is however necessary. Love is an encounter of life, first with the Lord Jesus, with the person of Jesus, and from there on, from that encounter of love, friendship, brotherhood and the certainty of being children of the same Father are born,” the pope said June 9 to the “relational reconciliation” gathering being held at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., fewer than 20 miles northeast of New York City.

“Life that is shared and dedicated to a higher purpose: love can change the world! Everything starts there, from a fraternal encounter, love can change the world, but first it changes us” the pope continued.

“Together in love, we Christians can change the world, we can change ourselves, because God is Love!”

Francis reflected that the John 17 Movement “is about those who, around the table, drinking a cappuccino, dining or eating a gelato, discover they are brothers, not on account of their colour, nor their nationality, nor their place of origin, nor the different forms in which they live out their faith, but as children of the one same Father.”

“And even if there is no table, even if there is no cappuccino, even if there is no ice cream, even if there is no coffee, because there is poverty and there is way, we are still brothers, and we must say this to each other … we are children of the one same Father.”

The ecumenical group was founded by Joe Tosini, leader of a Pentecostal ecclesial community. The movement is named for Christ’s prayer for his disciples in John 17; it says it encourages unity by “spending time in relationship, and sharing best practices of relational reconciliation.”

The movement’s website says those who identify with it “believe that what unites us as Christians is of far greater importance than what divides us. Our different denominational or non-denominational allegiances should never become barriers preventing us from gathering and sharing a meal together around the table of friendship.”

Tosini wrote on the John 17 Movement’s website that “we are sensing that God is sovereignly visiting his people with a fresh optimism and desire for unity in the Church. This is a unity not based on uniformity of doctrine and practice, but rather a reconciliation of relationships calling us back to Jesus’ prayer in the 17th chapter of John’s gospel.”

Participating in the retreat at St. Joseph’s Seminary is Joseph Cardinal Tobin, Archbishop of Newark.

Concluding his message to the meeting, Pope Francis said: “I urge you to continue to walk together, sharing life and brotherly love. The John 17 Movement and the testimony you have shared with me each time we have met gives me hope and gives me joy.”

“Whether you love or not, the love that became flesh, the love that gave life for us, that is the way. Very often we confuse love with a kind of platonic, idealistic philosophy. Love is concrete, love gives its life for others, as Jesus gave it for us. Perhaps because love is not taught, it is lived, and you are teaching us by living it.”