Pope Francis recorded a video–message which was broadcast as part of the Pentecost service of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Justin Welby. The period between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost has traditionally been a time of prayer for Christian unity. Pentecost celebrates that moment when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, peoples of many different languages were united in hearing and accepting the first preaching of the resurrection of Jesus. In the southern hemisphere many countries keep these days as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and by promoting the Thy Kingdom Come movement, Archbishop Welby has made it a special time for Christians to unite in prayer for the evangelisation of the world. In the video–message Pope Francis prays that Christians “be more deeply united as witnesses of mercy for the human family” and warns, “We cannot ask others to be united if we ourselves take different paths.”
The Pope’s message contrasted God “infecting” the world with life at Pentecost, with the contagion that has ravaged the world during the coronavirus pandemic. Pope Francis describes the Spirit as the Comforter and as the closeness of God who “assures us that we are not alone” and gives “that gentle strength that always inspires courage, even amid suffering”.
The Pope also prays for world leaders and expresses the hope that the pandemic will be an opportunity to hear the gospel message of repentance announced by Peter at the first Pentecost. In a striking phrase Pope Francis warns that we have been “anaesthetized before the cry of the poor and the devastation of our planet” and that we cannot return to former ways.
This is the second time that Pope Francis has contributed a video–message to Thy Kingdom Come. Last year, during the retreat that the Pope and Archbishop jointly hosted for spiritual and religious leaders from South Sudan in Casa Santa Marta, Archbishop Welby invited Pope Francis to record a message on the Archbishop’s phone. The Pope’s participation demonstrates his support for the Archbishop’s Thy Kingdom Come movement as a call to unity, heeding the prayer of Jesus “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).