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  March 2021  
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Pope to Brazilians: Lent, a time to be brothers and in dialogue
Church of Our Lady of Silence in Brazil.
17 February 2021. As the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB) and the National Council of Christian Churches (CONIC) kick of their joint Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign (CFE) on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis urges Christians in the country to overcome divisions and unite around life in order to overcome the pandemic.

By Robin Gomes

Lent offers Christians ample scope to do much in terms of charity. But when combined with ecumenism, charity brings to the forefront solidarity with dialogue. This is what Pope Francis says in his message on the occasion of  Brazil’s Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign, which allows us to open our hearts to our fellow travellers without fear or suspicion, seeking peace before the one God.

Greater solidarity in pandemic

Each year, the CNBB holds the annual Fraternity Campaign for Catholics at Lent, but every 5 years or so, it joins various Christian confessions of the country for the Ecumenical Fraternity Campaign. The theme of this year's Lenten Fraternity Campaign is "Fraternity and Dialogue: Commitment of Love", based on the Letter to the Ephesians: “Christ is our peace, He who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through His flesh.”    

In his message, Pope Francis evoked the basics of the Lenten period and the first reality facing humanity is the pandemic that has been particularly harsh in Brazil. The Pope said Christ “invites us to pray for those who have died, to bless the selfless service of so many health professionals and to encourage solidarity among people of goodwill”. Jesus calls us to take care of ourselves, of our health and to care for each other, as the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us.

In dialogue with fellow travellers

The theme of this year’s campaign underscores the need to search for communion with the various Christian communities of Brazil, a dialogue which the Holy Father defined as "a reason for hope". Christians, he pointed out, are the first to have to set an example, starting with the practice of ecumenical dialogue. It teaches us “to open our hearts to our traveling companion without fear or suspicion, and look first of all to what we seek: peace before the one God ".

Three Lenten tools

From this relationship of respect and sharing gushes forth that “precious contribution to the building up of fraternity and the defence of justice in society”, which the Pope reaffirms in his encyclical, Fratelli tuttiAnd within this horizon, the Pope recalls in his encyclical, lies the common effort to "overcome the pandemic". He asserts that “we will do so to the extent that we will be able to overcome divisions and unite around life".  And in order not to fall back into the temptation of "feverish consumerism and new forms of selfish self-protection" once the health crisis is over, Pope Francis encourages Christians to use the Lenten tools of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.