Pope Francis has urged Christian to look beyond partisan interests in order to overcome their divisions.
Celebrating the Second Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis urged Christians to be more hospitable, "in the first place among ourselves as Christians and among our brothers and sisters of different confessions".
Hospitality belongs to the tradition of Christian communities and families, he said. "Our elders taught us this by their example: there was always something extra on the table of a Christian home for a passing friend or a person in need who knocked on the door. In monasteries a guest is treated with great respect, as if he or she were Christ. Let us not lose, indeed let us revive, these customs that have the flavour of the Gospel."
The vespers took place in the Basilica of San Paolo outside the Walls, where the Christian leaders venerated the relics of St Timothy. As well as Pope Francis, those present included Anglican Archbishop Ian Ernest, director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
Pope Francis said that those who are weak and vulnerable, such as marginalised and persecuted Christian communities, can present valuable messages for the good of all. "Let us think of Christian communities: even the smallest and least significant in the eyes of the world, if they experience the Holy Spirit, if they are animated by love for God and neighbour, have a message to offer to the whole Christian family."
Among Christians, each community has a gift to offer to the others. "The more we look beyond partisan interests and overcome the legacies of the past in the desire to move forward towards a common landing place, the more readily we will recognise, welcome and share these gifts."
Among those he greeted at the Vespers, Pope Francis singled out a group of young people from the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches who are studying on a scholarship from the committee for cultural cooperation with the Orthodox Churches.