Great Jubilee News
Historic Ecumenical Meeting at Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

VATICAN CITY, JAN 18 (ZENIT).- A decisive step was taken today on the road to Christians unity with the ecumenical rite of the opening of the fourth Jubilee Holy Door in Rome. 
The ceremony took place at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, where, 40 years ago, John XXIII convoked Vatican Council II.

Today, 22 leaders of other Christian Churches, as well as the World Council of Churches, a
community embracing 337 Christian denominations, accompanied John Paul II during the
ceremony. All were united by their faith in Christ, the one Savior, and by one baptism.

The drama of the event reached its height at instant of the opening of the bronze Holy Door. As
sunlight poured into the basilica, the people gathered inside could make out three figures in the
doorway: the silhouettes of Pope John Paul II, Orthodox Metropolitan Athanasius of the
Ecumenical Patriarchy of Constantinople, and George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury and
president of the Anglican Communion. The faithful broke out into applause. Everyone seemed
aware of the privileged moment they were experiencing on the road of ecumenical dialogue.

All passed in turn through the Holy Door: representatives of the Catholic Church and of the
Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals all went up to the
place of the Gospel. The procession symbolized the centuries-old road that Christians have
followed in pursuit of unity, the Word of God, the very source from which all confessions drink.

The liturgy included three readings: one from St. Paul, one from Russian theologian Gregor
Florovsky, and a third from Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoffer, who died at the hands of the
Nazis. The readings stressed the need to find unity in the body of the Church through the link of

"We know we are brothers and that we are still divided, but we have directed ourselves with
decisive conviction on the path that leads to full unity of the Body of Christ," the Pope said during
the homily. "This unity can find vital force in the experience of the Holy Year."

"During this year of grace, the awareness must grow in each one of us of our own responsibility in
the fractures that mark the history of the Mystical Body of Christ. This awareness is indispensable
to progress toward that goal that the Council call as 'unitatis reintegratio,' that is, the
re-composition of our unity," the Holy Father exhorted.


John Paul II said that the ecumenical commitment must be an imperative for the Christian
conscience in the year 2000. It must be both a personal as well as collective commitment on which
the very future of evangelization depends. "The wish that comes from my heart becomes a
profound supplication before the throne of the Eternal: that in the not too distant future, Christians,
finally reconciled, can return to walk together as one people, in obedience to the Father's plan."

At the end of the homily, John Paul II could no longer contain his emotion. The presence of the
Orthodox representatives reminded him of his May visit to Rumania, the first time that a Bishop of
Rome visited an Orthodox land. Putting his papers aside, he cried in Rumanian, "Unitade, Unitade!
[Unity]" And he explained: "This cry that I heard in Bucharest during my visit, I am hearing now
as a very strong echo. 'Unitade, Unitade!' the people cried who were gathered for the Eucharistic
celebration: all Christians, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Evangelicals -- all cried together:
'Unitade, Unitade.' Thank you for this cry, for this consoling cry of our brothers and sisters."

After a few moments of silence the Pope concluded: "Perhaps we can leave this Basilica crying
like them, 'Unità, Unitad, Unité, Unity!' "

Following the ceremony, John Paul II invited all the participants of the different Churches to dine
with him in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls. At the end of the meeting, the
Holy Father spoke to thank each of the Churches present individually for their significant gesture
of coming to Rome to participate in the opening of the Holy Door.