In his general audience during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis focused on the common baptism Christians share, saying the strength of this bond is stronger than existing divisions.
“We are truly the Holy People of God, even if, due to our sins, we are not yet a people fully united,” the Pope said in his Jan. 20 general audience, adding that “the mercy of God, which works in baptism, is stronger than our divisions.”
The Pope’s audience, which took place in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, fell during the Week of Prayer Christian Unity. It runs Jan. 18-25, and is organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the Commission on Faith and the Order of the World Council of Churches.
This year’s theme, “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord,” is taken from chapter two of the First Book of Peter, and was chosen by a group from Latvia, which is home to a strong presence of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians.
In his address, Francis pointed to a 12th century baptismal font in the Lutheran Cathedral of Riga in Latvia, where St. Mainardo evangelized.
The font, he said, is sign of the origin of the faith recognized by all Christians in Latvia, and explained that this origin “is our common baptism.”
Referring to the Second Vatican Council document “Unitatis redintegratio”, the Pope affirmed that baptism “establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it.”
Above all, this shared baptism means that all are sinners and are in need of being saved, redeemed and freed from evil, he said.
When Christians say that they share one baptism, it’s an affirmation that all of them — Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox included — share the experience of being called from “unforgiving darkness and alienation from the encounter with the living God,” who is full of mercy.
Francis noted that despite our common roots, all Christians unfortunately experience egoism, which plants seeds of division, closure and contempt in our minds and hearts.
By restarting from our baptism, Christians again “plunge into the source of mercy and hope, from which no one is excluded,” he said.
This experience of shared grace creates “an indissoluble bond between us Christians, such that, by virtue of baptism, we can consider ourselves truly brothers,” he said, adding that the more we welcome this grace and mercy, the more we belong to the one, Holy People of God.
“We also become capable of announcing his marvelous works to all, beginning from a simple and fraternal witness of unity,” Francis observed.
He said a good way for all Christians to work together in this announcement is by performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are “a concrete witness of unity among us Christians: Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics.”
Pope Francis concluded his speech by pointing to the common mission Christians have in transmitting the mercy they have received in baptism to others, beginning with the poor and abandoned.
“During this Week of Prayer, we pray so that all of us disciples of Christ find a way of collaborating together in order to bring the mercy of the Father to every part of the world,” he said, and greeted pilgrims present from different countries around the world before leaving the building.