Blessed Paolo Manna and the unity of the Church in the Week of Prayer for Christian unity (18-25 January 2021)

21 January 2021

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January 16 marks the 149th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Paolo Manna, founder of the Missionary Union of the Clergy in 1916, later Pontifical Missionary Union, and superior general of PIME in 1924. Father Manna wrote the book "The Separated Brothers and Us - Considerations and Testimonies on the meeting of Christians" in 1941, a unique book of its kind, which presented the problem of the unity of the Church in all its urgency for effective missionary action. Father Biondi recounts: "He had Christian unity very much at heart: he is the first Italian to write a book on Christian unity, "The separated brothers and us", a challenge that Pope Francis has made his own today and which is increasingly full of significant encounters and gestures. In those years no one talked about these things and Paul VI defined him "the greatest ecumenist of the century". Some peculiarities have been recognized in Manna that perhaps time has tarnished a little. For him, Christian unity is the sine qua non of evangelization. Without it, absolutely nothing can be planned, nor is it credible to proclaim the Gospel. He adds that the greatest obstacle to world evangelization is precisely the division among Christians. The text written by Father Manna was considered a "manual of Ecumenism" for priests, members of the Missionary Union, and soon gained wide acceptance, not only among Catholic scholars. In it he recommends study in seminaries and adds that «to understand each other you have to see each other»: contacts are needed between divided Christians, promoting conferences, dialogues, visits, in order to create a base of knowledge and confidence. But everything is useless, adds Manna, "if the obstacle of sin, which is at the origin of the serious situation and is also the cause of its perpetuation, is not removed. Divided Christians must turn back on  themselves and be humble in recognizing their mistakes, adhere more to God and implore his help with fervent prayers. The reconstruction of Christianity united in its original unity is an absolutely spiritual fact and can only be carried out through the paths of the Spirit".