Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Next observed on January 18-25, 2012
Logo commemorating the Week's centenary
"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 2012 theme and planning
Christians in Poland are preparing to host the European Football Championship in 2012. And they have also prepared the material for the 2012 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU). Both occasions focus on the meaning of victory and defeat. The selected WPCU theme for 2012 is, "We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (based on 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
At the level of football—and Polish history—there is inevitable thought about the temporary nature of all winning and losing. We realize that, in contrast to human rivalries, "there is room for everyone in God's plan of salvation." Reflecting on the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ, we are enabled to move beyond triumphalistic approaches and rivalries and become people who seek to live together.
The full set of plans is available now online, as released by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It includes a worship service, reflections/prayers for the eight days of the Week, and additional worship resources. Local groups, who may begin their own planning through use of this document, will want to get materials for congregational use from the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute when they are ready.
Ecumenical thoughts during the 2011 observance
World Council of Churches general secretary
Tveit, preaching at a Geneva, Switzerland, observance of the Week of Prayer, said that the New Testament portrayal of the Jerusalem church "describes the original oneness of those early believers in Jesus. Being one means being together, breaking bread, praising God, but also giving and sharing, according to who is in need." He described the image of sharing around the table as a striking image that "gives great spiritual energy" to ecumenical endeavours. But, Tveit said, sadly today "we as Christians do not yet eat together." Nonetheless, Christians in Jerusalem can help us all through their demonstration of action together for justice and peace.
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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