.- Improving the unity of Christians today requires the same elements that united the first apostles in Jerusalem, Pope Benedict XVI said Jan. 19.
Pope Benedict met with pilgrims to Rome in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall for his weekly general audience. In observation of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25), he based his message on "the gift of full communion."
Christians take part in the week of prayer for unity "to bear witness to the profound ties that unite them and to invoke the gift of full communion," said the Pope.
"They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" is the theme of this year's prayer week for the unity of Christians. Pope Benedict said that this passage from the Acts of the Apostles offers a vision of four characteristics that defined the first Christian community in Jerusalem "as a place of unity and love."
In the teaching of the apostles, in fraternal communion, in the breaking of bread and in prayer are four "pillars" that continue to be the foundation of Christian life and build Church unity, he explained.
Every effort to increase unity must involve increased faithfulness to the teaching of the first Christians, the apostles, the Pope said. "Even today," he explained, "the community of believers recognizes the norms of its own faith in that reference to the teaching of the Apostles."
Fraternal communion was "the most tangible expression of unity between disciples and the Lord, especially for the outside world," he pointed out.