Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Next observed on January 18-25, 2014
"What would the ecumenical movement become without the personal and communal prayer that ‘they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you'? (John 17:21) Where would we find the extra impetus of faith, hope and charity, of which our search for unity has a special need today? Our desire for unity must not be limited to isolated occasions; it must become an integral part of our whole prayer life. . . The ship of ecumenism would never have been put to sea had it not been lifted by this broad current of prayer and wafted by the breath of the Holy Spirit."
— Pope Benedict XVI, at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2008 (page 12)
The 2014 theme
"Has Christ Been Divided? (I Corinthians 1:1-17)" is the theme for the 2014 celebration.of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Materials for use in the U.S. (in English an Spanish) can be ordered from the web site of the Graymoor Institute. The material, in an international version, not yet adapted for any particular local use, can be downloaded from the World Council of Churches in English or in other languages (Spanish, German, French). The 2014 materials were prepared in Canada. They say about themselves, "We have much to be grateful for in the diversity of peoples and expressions of faith in our country. Although our history has many examples of how we have not lived in mutual respect for and respect of each other . . . [a]s Christians and as churches, we feel called to receptive gratitude towards the gifts of God in the other, and to embody thankfulness and caring of the whole country and the world."
A history of local celebration
As a sign of the unity that is already theirs in Christ, Christians are encouraged to pray together each January 18-25, during a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, that their unity will become complete and visible. This expression of Christian unity originated in 1908, in Graymoor, New York. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began as a local observance and its celebration depends upon local circumstances. The local setting is where unity is built through collaboration and through mutual recogntion and respect for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. The occasion of local cooperation to pray together during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity sometimes encourages churches and their members to do things together at other times. In an effort to encourage this local ecumenism throughout the year, the Graymoor Institute has provided a list of other occasions when activity might occur, together with suggestions. Some of these occasions lend themselves to interfaith activity.
A commentary on participation in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
The content of Richard O'Brien's column in the National Catholic Reporter on January 11, 2010 was a plea to those who pray during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He writes about the changes in membership in the Catholic church and the tensions in the Episcopal Church. He recalls that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began with an Episcopalian who became a Catholic. Given its size,
he says, "unless the Catholic church is the strongest and most committed participant in the ecumenical movement, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity can have only a limited effect." He also comments,
"Anglicanism has traditionally seen itself a bridge within the divided Body of Christ. But, again, if the Anglican communion is itself torn by internal division, how can it serve the full Body of Christ as an effective bridge between the Catholic church and the broad community of Protestant denominations?" O'Brien's challenge is: "Those committed to the restoration of Christian unity should be deeply concerned about . . . developments within Catholicism and Anglicanism. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an appropriate time to act upon these concerns."
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