The Pope has offered prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today, focusing on Christian-Jewish relations.
Speaking at his weekly general audience yesterday (Wednesday) Pope Benedict said the road to Christian unity was a long and difficult one, but it was important not to become discouraged.
In many countries the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is preceded by a Day of Reflection between Christians and Jews, in order to build greater respect, friendship and cooperation between our two communities.
"Friendship between Jews and Christians, in order to grow and be fruitful, must be founded on prayer," he said.
"I ask everyone to pray insistently so that Jews and Christians may respect each other, appreciate each other and work together for justice and peace in the world".
The theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ‚Äì "He even makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak" ‚Äì is inspired by St. Mark's account of Jesus' healing a man who was deaf and mute (cf. Mk 7:37).
He said it referred to the missionary responsibilities of all Christians.
Through baptism all Christians had been freed from "spiritual deafness," he said, and had become capable of listening to God's word and communicating it to others.
"The theme underlines how important it is to translate the message of Christ into concrete initiatives of solidarity," the pope said.
He said that Christians needed to demonstrate their commitment to one another through concrete acts of charity.
Prayer was essential for ecumenical progress, he said.
"Every Christian worthy of the name should unite with their brothers and sisters to implore the gift of unity and communion," he said.
"Every action, however small, which Christians make together to relieve the suffering of others helps make more visible their communion and their fidelity to the commandment of the Lord".
The pope asked everyone to pray for "significant steps on the road of full communion" between Christian churches, not only during the week dedicated to ecumenism but every day of the year.
Over time, the pope said, he had come to appreciate the deep desire for unity among Christian leaders.