22 January 2020 | General Audience


Paul VI Audience Hall

[…] My dearest ones, hospitality is important. And it is also an important
ecumenical virtue. First of all it means recognizing that other Christians are truly
our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are brothers and sisters. Some might say:
“But he is Protestant, he is Orthodox …”. Yes, but we are all brothers and sisters
in Christ. It is not a one way act of generosity because when we welcome other
Christians, we welcome them as a gift that is given to us. Like the Maltese —
these Maltese were good — we are rewarded because we receive what the Holy
Spirit has sown in these brothers and sisters and this also becomes a gift for us
because the Holy Spirit too sows his graces everywhere. Welcoming Christians
from another tradition means firstly showing God’s love to them because they
are children of God — our brothers and sisters — and moreover, it means
welcoming what God has done in their lives. Ecumenical hospitality requires the
willingness to listen to others, to pay attention to their personal stories of faith
and to the respective history of their communities, communities of faith with
another tradition that is different from ours. Ecumenical hospitality involves the
desire to know the experience that other Christians have of God and waiting to
receive the spiritual gifts that follow from that. And this is a grace. To discover
this is a grace. I think of the past, of my land for example. When evangelical
missionaries arrived, a small group of Catholics would burn their tents. Not this:
it is not Christian. We are brothers and sisters, we are all brothers and sisters
and we have to show hospitality to each other.
Today, the sea that shipwrecked Paul and his companions is once again a place
of danger to the lives of other passengers. All over the world, men and women
migrants face risky voyages to flee from violence, to flee from war, to flee from
poverty. Just like Paul and his companions, they experience indifference, the
hostility of the desert, rivers, seas… They are often not allowed to disembark at
ports. But unfortunately, sometimes they are also met with far worse hostility
from mankind. They are exploited by criminal traffickers: today! They are
treated like numbers and like a threat by some government leaders: today!
Sometimes the lack of hospitality drives them back like a wave, to the poverty or
the very dangers they had fled.
As Christians we must work together to show migrants God’s love revealed by
Jesus Christ. We can and we must bear witness that there are not just hostility
and indifference but that every person is precious to God and loved by him. The
divisions that still exist among us prevent us from fully being a sign of God’s
love. Working together to exercise ecumenical hospitality, in particular to those
whose lives are most vulnerable, will make us all Christians— Protestants,
Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians — better human beings, better disciples and a
more united Christian people. It will bring us closer to unity which is God’s will
for all of us. […]