Already from the time of the apostles, and in the first Christian communities, the Gospel reached people’s hearts through different paths. “Diversity and unity were very present,” Pope Francis reminds us in this month’s prayer intention: yet, only a few years had passed since the death of Christ. Then centuries passed, the Good News arrived in very different cultural contexts, and rites and traditions were born that are still present today in many Eastern Churches, while remaining in communion with Rome.
It is no coincidence that Pope Francis insists on the need for unity among Christians during the month of January, which traditionally hosts a week for ecumenical dialogue. In fact, January 25th celebrates the conversion of Saint Paul, who wrote very clear words to the Corinthians. He exhorted them to be “unanimous in speaking, in perfect communion of thought and intent.” He invited them to avoid divisions and he explained to them that one is not “of Paul,” nor “of Apollos,” nor “of Cephas,” but “of Christ.” (see 1 Cor 1)
Pope Francis underlines this point: the differences are not “something that confuses and creates discomfort, but a gift that God gives to the Christian community.” And while mentioning the need for ecumenical dialogue with all Christian brothers, he has particular attention for the Eastern Churches: “They have some traditions of their own, some specific liturgical rites, but they maintain the unity of the faith. They strengthen it, they don’t divide it.”
Therefore, seeking unity, even in differences, is also the message of this month’s Pope Video, which accompanies his prayer intention. The common thread is the cross, symbol of unity and diversity: a cross that appears on doors, on rocks, in churches, each time showing the richness of the various Christian communities precisely in their differences. “The cross is not a Roman pole, but the wood on which God wrote his Gospel,” noted the poet Alda Merini. It is much more than an object of devotion, before which all Christians find themselves, beyond confessions, traditions and rites.
Pope Francis’ appeal is that in diversity “the Christian community grows as one body, the body of Christ.” The video therefore ends with the image of an enormous cross made up of thousands of Christians of various origins, as if to metaphorically collect the Holy Father’s appeal. And we, in our hearts, are called to do the same.
Coordinator of the Pope’s Video