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Let me call you 'brother': Pope takes ecumenism one step at a time

Pope Francis talks with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, "but I went to visit my friends." (CNS photo/ L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

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While Pope Francis' gestures are new, the basic idea of growth in unity being the result of growth in fidelity to Christ is not. During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI said, "The full and visible Christian unity that we long for demands that we let ourselves be transformed and that we conform ourselves ever more perfectly to the image of Christ. The unity we pray for requires an inner conversion that is both common and personal. It is not merely a matter of cordiality or cooperation, it is necessary above all to strengthen our faith in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, who spoke to us and made himself one of us.

"It is necessary to enter into new life in Christ, who is our true and definitive victory; it is necessary to open ourselves to one another, understanding all the elements of unity that God keeps for us and gives us ever anew," Pope Benedict said.

Pope Francis told the group in Caserta that one thing present among Christians since apostolic times, but definitely not a gift of God, is name-calling.

On the path of Christian life, "when we stop and spend too much time looking at each other, we start a different journey, an ugly one," the pope said. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul criticizes early Christians who, bragging and promoting rivalry, started saying, "I belong to Paul" or "I belong to Apollos," rather than "I belong to Jesus."

The pope said it was like saying, "I am the church, you are a sect."

"It is not the Holy Spirit who makes division," Pope Francis told the Pentecostals. "The one who creates divisions is the jealous one, the king of envy, that sower of weeds: Satan!"

"The Holy Spirit creates diversity in the church," he said. "And this diversity is very rich and very beautiful. But then, the Holy Spirit also brings unity and, in that way, the church is one in its diversity."

As he did in January when he recorded a video message to a group of U.S. Pentecostals on a pastor's iPhone, Pope Francis used the Genesis story of Jacob's sons selling their brother Joseph out of jealousy, only to be united with him again when they set off to Egypt in search of food during a famine.

"Let us try to walk in the presence of God in order to be irreproachable," the pope said in Caserta. "Let us try to go find the nourishment we need and end up finding our brother."

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