Pope asks Protestants and Catholics to forgive each other for past persecution
At a prayer service concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis asked for God’s mercy upon divided Christians “We ask most of all for forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound on the body of Christ”.
He went on to apologise for historic persecution of Protestants: “As bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to beg for mercy and forgiveness for un-Gospel-like behaviour on the part of Catholics against Christians of other churches”. He also asked Catholics to forgive any hurt at the hands of other Christians, adding “We cannot erase what happened, but we do not want to allow the burden of past faults to continue to poison our relationships.”
Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, representing the archbishop of Canterbury and Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios, representing the ecumenical patriarch, walked across the threshold of the Holy Door of the Basilica of St Paul Outsie the Walls alongside the Pope. They joined the pope in prayer at St Paul’s tomb during the service.
In his homily, Pope Francis said St Paul and countless Christian martyrs throughout the centuries had given their lives for their faith in Christ and now enjoyed “full communion in the presence of God the father. He prayed that the martyrs by their example would sustain today’s Christians.
“Beyond the differences that still separate us,” said the Pope “we recognise with joy that at the origin of the Christian life there is always a call whose author is God himself” and added “When all Christians of different churches listen to the word of God and try to put it into practice, they truly take important steps toward unity.”
The path to Christian unity, Francis stated, did not just mean drawing closer to one another, but has more to do with each person drawing closer to Christ and thus finding each other.
He addHe went on to explain: “It is not only the call that unites us. We are joined by the same mission: to proclaim to all the mighty acts of the Lord. Walking together and working together, we will become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord. Unity is made by walking.”