Vespers at the Conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

25 Jan 2024

Pope Francis marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024 by presiding at Vespers at the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls. Representatives of many Christian churches and communities were present in the basilica for the liturgy, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Metropolitan Polycarp of Italy, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In his homily, Pope Francis commented on the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan, which was the text chosen by the churches of Burkina Faso as the theme for the 2024 Week of Prayer. “The right question is not: ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but ‘Do I act like a neighbour?’ Only a love that becomes freely-given service, only the love that Jesus taught and embodied, will bring separated Christians closer to one another. Only that love, which does not appeal to the past in order to remain aloof or to point a finger, only that love which in God’s name puts our brothers and sisters before the ironclad defence of our own religious structures, only that love will unite us. First our brothers and sisters, then the structures.” In a spontaneous gesture, following the homily, the Holy Father invited the Archbishop of Canterbury to add his own reflections on the Gospel text. Echoing the words of the Pope about the pre-eminence of love, Archbishop Welby asked: “Why was the Samaritan able to help the injured man?”, answering, “because he was free and what made him free was love.”

At the end of Vespers, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury jointly commissioned pairs of bishops, Catholic and Anglican, from 27 countries, to engage in joint mission and witness and to promote reception of the agreements already reached in theological dialogues between the two traditions, calling on them to minister alongside one another so as to offer the world “a foretaste of the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ for which we pray this day.” The Pope and the Archbishop then exchanged a sign of peace with each pair of bishops.



Photos © Vatican Media