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Pope's formula for Christian unity: avoid competing for souls; make most of differences

  • Pope Francis delivers his message as he leads a vespers prayer in St. Paul outside the walls' Basilica in Rome, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis delivers his message as he leads a vespers prayer in St. Paul outside the walls' Basilica in Rome, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis takes out  his mitre at the end of a vespers prayer in St. Paul outside the walls' Basilica in Rome, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis takes out his mitre at the end of a vespers prayer in St. Paul outside the walls' Basilica in Rome, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis, greets Rev. Tara Curlewis, General Secretaryof the National Council of Churches in Australia, at the end of a vespers prayer in St. Paul outside the walls' Basilica in Rome, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis, greets Rev. Tara Curlewis, General Secretaryof the National Council of Churches in Australia, at the end of a vespers prayer in St. Paul outside the walls' Basilica in Rome, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has laid out his formula for fostering Christian unity: resist competing for souls and make concrete gestures of acceptance and dialogue.

Francis celebrated vespers Sunday evening in a Rome basilica along with Anglican, Orthodox and other church leaders to cap an annual week of prayer for unity of Christians.

He told the church leaders that "our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms."

Francis said getting to know "those who are different from ourselves can make us grow." He also cautioned about "subtle theoretical discussions in which each side tries to convince the other."

Referring to Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and elsewhere, Francis described their suffering as a kind of "ecumenism of blood."