On Saturday morning 25 September, Pope Francis received in an audience a group of Bishops of various Christian traditions who meet regularly under the umbrella of the Bishops Friends of the Focolare Movement, and who had gathered in Rome for a two‒day conference. In his address, the Holy Father spoke with encouragement of the charism of unity received from its founder Chiara Lubich, describing this unity as “unity in the Church, unity among all believers, and unity throughout the world, in concentric circles”. In this context, Pope Francis recalled the definition of the Church given by the Second Vatican Council, as “the sacrament or sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (Lumen gentium, 1)”. Speaking of the episcopate, he continued that the “kinship” between this charism and the ministry of bishops is evident, as bishops are at “the service of the people of God, so that it may be built up in the unity of faith, hope and charity”. The Holy Father concluded that it should always be borne in mind that the “unity that Jesus Christ gave us and continues to give us is not unanimity, it is not agreeing at all costs: no, it is not. It obeys a fundamental criterion, which is respect for the person, respect for the face of the other, especially the poor, the small, the excluded”.
As coordinator of the group, Bishop Brendan Leahy, Catholic bishop of Limerick, Ireland, spoke of the enriching experience of the conference. Bishop Christian Krause of Germany, former President of the Lutheran World Federation, reflected on ways to widen the circle of meetings between bishops of various churches. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus spoke of prayer as the way to go beyond division.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also took part in the audience.