January 30, 2012

VATICAN CITY – Divisions among Christians, including those on moral issues, weakens their credibility and their ability to respond to the spiritual yearning of many men and women today, Pope Benedict said.

"There is more that unites us than divides us" on the basic tenets of faith – belief in Christ, the Son of God and saviour of humanity, the pope said.

Yet "divisions remain and regard many practical and ethical questions, giving rise to confusion and mistrust, weakening our ability to transmit the saving word of Christ," Pope Benedict said.

Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18-25 at his Jan. 18 weekly general audience.

The lack of a united voice and united witness poses a huge obstacle to the new evangelization, he said.

Evangelization "would be more fruitful if all Christians proclaimed together the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and gave a common response to the spiritual thirst of our age," the pope said.

During his audience talk, Pope Benedict did not mention specific practical or moral issues dividing Christians today, but he has defined as obstacles to unity practices such as the ordination of women and different approaches to moral issues such as homosexuality.

The Second Vatican Council placed the search for Christian unity "at the centre of the life and work of the Church," the pope said. It did so because it was Christ's desire for his followers and because, practically speaking, it is essential for the full credibility of Christians.

"The lack of unity among Christians impedes a more effective proclamation of Christ because it puts our credibility in danger," the pope said. "How can we give a convincing witness if we are divided?"