The Ecumenism Blog

Home » Posts tagged 'Week of Prayer for Christian Unity' (Page 2)

Tag Archives: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Papal Angelus Address on Christian Unity Sunday

“Conversion to Christ Is the Way That Will Lead … to Full Visible Unity”

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

During these days, Jan. 18-25, the Week of Prayer for Christians Unity is being observed. This year it has as its theme a passage from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, that sums up in a few words the life of the first Christian community in Jerusalem: “They persevered in the teaching of the apostles, in communion, in the breaking of the bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42). It is very significant that this [year’s] theme was proposed by the Churches and Christian communities in Jerusalem, gathered together in an ecumenical spirit. We know how many trials the brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and the Middle East have to face. Their service is thus still more precious, confirmed by the witness that, in certain cases, has ended in the sacrifice of life. So, while we welcome with joy the points of reflection offered by the communities that live in Jerusalem, we join with them and may this become for everyone a further builder of communion.

Today too, to be a sign and instrument in the world of intimate union with God and of unity among men, we Christians must base our life on these four cardinal principles: life founded on the faith of the Apostles transmitted in the living Tradition of the Church, fraternal communion, the Eucharist and prayer. Only in this way, being closely united to Christ, can the Church effectively accomplish her mission, despite the limits and failures of her members, despite the divisions, which the apostle Paul already had to confront in the community of Corinth, as the second biblical reading for this Sunday recalled: “I exhort you brothers to be united in what you say so that there are not divisions among you, but be in perfect union of thought and feeling” (1:10). The Apostle, in fact, knew that in the Christian community of Corinth discord and division had sprung up; thus, with great firmness he adds: “Is Christ divided?” (1:13). Speaking in this way he acknowledges that every division in the Church is an offense to Christ; and, at the same time, that it is always in him, the one Head and Lord, that we can find unity among ourselves, by the inexhaustible power of his grace.

This is why the Gospel’s summons is always relevant today: “Convert, because the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). The serious commitment to conversion to Christ is the way that will lead the Church, in the times disposed by God, to full visible unity. The ecumenical encounters that are increasing throughout the world are a sign of this. Here in Rome, besides various ecumenical delegations being present, tomorrow will begin a session of the Commission for Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Ancient Eastern Churches. And the day after tomorrow, the Week of Prayer for Unity Among Christians will conclude with the solemn celebration of the vespers of the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, always accompany us along this path.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
© Copyright 2011 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana


The Week of Prayer in Rome

Earlier in the year, a couple fellow classmates and I quipped that ecumenical progress in Rome meant that after centuries of bitter division, competitiveness and even occasional “sheep-stealing”, now the students from the Dominican-run Angelicum are allowed to attend lectures at the Jesuit-staffed Gregorian University, (which is located a short five-minute walk from the Angelicum).

The reality is a little more encouraging, however. The packed schedule of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is just one example that ecumenism, which lay at the heart of the Church’s mission, is really present in the City at the heart of the Catholic Church.

It even goes beyond that, in fact. 17 January, the day before the Week of Prayer begins is devoted, in Italy and other European nations, to a day of Dialogue between Christians and Jews. A celebration in Assisi on that date every year is one of the oldest and best known, and regularly includes Angelicum professor Rabbi Jack Bemporad on the agenda.

It is true that it is difficult, though not impossible, to find non-Catholics in the theology and philosophy departments of the Pontifical Universities. Honestly, it is still hard to find non-clerics or religious in some! But, for all that, the capital of the Church has a lot going on during this 2011 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

(Being as it is Rome, however, nobody coordinates these events into a single calendar. I had to put together five different sources to get these. Most of which arrived after the week had started!):

Sunday, 16 January

+        18.30 In anticipation of the Week of Prayer, Ecumenical Evensong at the Anglican Church of All Saints, organized by Churches Together in Rome.

Monday, 17 January

+        20.00 Lecture, “The Path Ahead for the Ecumenical Movement in the 21st Century” with Rev. Andrea Joos at Santa Maria del Silenzio. Sponsored by the Daughters of the Church.

 Tuesday, 18 January:

+        12.45 Eucharist celebrated at the Anglican Centre in Rome (Palazzo Doria Pamphilj)

+        15.30 Lecture, “Orthodox Ecclesiology and Postmodernity with Grand Archdeacon Maximos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Pontifical Gregorian University

+        19.00 Worship service at the Italian Methodist Church, sponsored by the Consultation of Evangelical Churches of Rome (Via XX Settembre)

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite (Ukranian Catholic Church) at Santa Maria in Via Lata (Via del Corso 306)

+        20.00 Lecture, “The Fifth Commandment: Honor Your Father and Mother” with Rabbi Jack Bemporad at Santa Maria del Silenzio.

Wednesday, 19 January

+        10.30 General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI “Prayer is the center of the journey to unity

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Armenian Rite (Armenian Catholic Church) at Sta Maria in Via Lata

Thursday, 20 January

+        16.30 Lecture, “Renewed Mission of the World Council of Churches in the Search for Christian Unity” with Rev. Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC. Followed by an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word, presided over by Rev. Trevor Hoggard, Methodist Representative to the Holy See and pastor of Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church, and preaching by Very Rev. Mark Francis, CSV, of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute and the Caravita community. Sponsored by the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, the Centro Pro Unione, and the Vincent Pallotti Institute.

+        19.00 Ecumenical Vigil at the parish Gesù Divino Maestro, sponsored by the Diocese of Rome.

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite (Romanian Catholic Church) at Sta Maria in Via Lata

Friday, 21 January

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Antiochene/West Syrian Rite (Maronite Catholic Church) at Sta Maria in Via Lata

Saturday, 22 January

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Chaldean/East Syrian Rite (Syro-Malabar Catholic Church) at Sta Maria in Via Lata

Sunday, 23 January – Christian Unity Sunday

+        11.00 Eucharist at the Caravita Community with ecumenical guest preacher, Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo, Director of the Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary.

+        17.00 Ecumenical Evensong at the Episcopal Church of St. Paul “Within the Walls”. Bishop Richard Garrard, presiding. Followed by a presentation of Thomas Tallis’ anthem “Spem in Alium” rendered by four choirs from an ecumenical gathering of churches in Rome

+        18.00 Ecumenical prayer and “fraternal encounter” at the Waldensian Church on Piazza Cavour, sponsored by the Segretariato Attività Ecumeniche – an Italian ecumenical lay movement.

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Roman Rite (Roman Catholic Church) at Sta. Maria in Via Lata. Most Rev. Ernesto Mandara, Auxiliary Bishop of Rome for the Central Sector, presiding.

Monday, 24 January

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite (Greek Catholic Church) at Santa Maria in Via Lata

Tuesday, 25 January

+        12.45 Eucharist celebrated at the Anglican Centre (Palazzo Doria Pamphili). Reception following.

+        17.30 Solemn Vespers concluding the Week of Prayer for Chrisitan Unity at the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will preside and preach. 

+        20.00 Divine Liturgy in the Alexandrian Rite (Ethiopian Catholic Church) at Santa Maria in Via Lata

Pope Benedict XVI: Praying for Christian Unity

The Vatican Website only has the audience text in Italian….

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. In his address, the Pope centered his meditation on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is being held these days with the theme “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in which all believers in Christ are invited to join in prayer to witness the profound bond that exists among them and to invoke the gift of full communion. Providential is the fact that prayer is placed at the center of the path to build unity: this reminds us, once again, that unity cannot be a simple product of human action; it is above all a gift of God, which entails growth in communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Vatican Council II states “[t]hese prayers in communion are, without a doubt, a very effective means to implore the grace of unity and constitute a genuine manifestation of the bonds with which Catholics remain united with the separated brethren: ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew18:20)” (“Decree Unitatis Redintegratio,” No. 8). The path to visible unity among all Christians resides in prayer, because fundamentally we do not “build” unity, but it is “built” by God, it comes from Him, from the Trinitarian Mystery, from the unity of the Father with the Son in the dialogue of love which is the Holy Spirit and our ecumenical effort should be open to divine action, it must be a daily invocation of God’s help. The Church is His and not ours.

The theme chosen this year for the Week of Prayer makes reference to the experience of the early Christian community of Jerusalem, just as it is described in the Acts of the Apostles (we have heard the text): “And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). We must consider that already at the moment of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on persons of different language and culture: this means that the Church embraces from the beginning people of different origins and, yet, precisely from these differences the Spirit creates one body. Pentecost, as the beginning of the Church, marks the enlargement of God’s Covenant with all creatures, with all peoples at all times, so that the whole of creation will walk towards its true objective: to be a place of unity and love.

In the passage quoted from the Acts of the Apostles, four characteristics define the early Christian community of Jerusalem as a place of unity and love, and St. Luke does not wish to describe only an event of the past. He offers it to us as model, as norm for the present Church, because these four characteristics must always constitute the life of the Church. The first characteristic is to be united in listening to the teachings of the Apostles, in fraternal communion, in the breaking of the bread and in prayer. As I already mentioned, these four elements are still today the pillars of the life of every Christian community and constitute just one solid foundation on which to base our search for the visible unity of the Church.

First of all we have listening to the teaching of the Apostles, that is, listening to the testimony that they give of the mission, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is what Paul calls simply the “Gospel.” The first Christians received the Gospel from the mouth of the Apostles, they were united to hear it and to proclaim it, since the Gospel, as Saint Paul affirms, “is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Romans 1:16). Still today, the community of believers recognizes, in the reference to the teaching of the Apostles, their own norm of faith: every effort made for the building of unity between Christians passes through the deepening of fidelity to the depositum fidei which the Apostles transmit to us. Firmness in the faith is the basis of our communion, it is the basis of Christian unity.

The second element is fraternal communion. In the times of the early Christian community, as also in our days, this is the most tangible expression, above all for the outside world, of the unity among the disciples of the Lord. We read in the Acts of the Apostles — we have heard it — that the first Christians held everything in common and that those who had properties and goods sold them to distribute to the needy (cf. Acts 2:44-45). This communion of their goods has found, in the history of the Church, new forms of expression. One of these, in particular, is that of the fraternal relationship and friendship built between Christians of different confessions. The history of the ecumenical movement is marked by difficulties and uncertainties, but it is also a history of fraternity, of cooperation and of human and spiritual communion, which has changed in a significant way the relations between believers in the Lord Jesus: we are all committed to continue on this path. Hence, the second element is communion which is, first of all, communion with God through faith, but communion with God creates communion among ourselves and is translated necessarily into the concrete communion of which the Acts of the Apostles speak, that is, full communion. No one should be hungry in the Christian community, no one should be poor: it is a fundamental obligation. Communion with God, made flesh in fraternal communion, is translated, concretely, in social effort, in Christian charity, in justice.

Third element. Essential also in the life of the early community of Jerusalem was the moment of the breaking of the bread, in which the Lord himself makes himself present with the only sacrifice of the Cross in his giving himself completely for the life of his friends: “This is my Body given in sacrifice for you … this is the chalice of my Blood … shed for you.” “The Church lives from the Eucharist. This truth does not express only a daily experience of faith, but encloses in synthesis the nucleus of the mystery of the Church” (Encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” No. 1). Communion in Christ’s sacrifice is the culmination of our union with God and therefore also represents the plenitude of the unity of the disciples of Christ, full communion. During this Week of Prayer for Unity the lament is particularly alive due to the impossibility of sharing the same Eucharistic table, sign that we are still far from the realization of that unity for which Christ prayed. This painful experience, which confers a penitential dimension to our prayer, must become the motive for a still more generous effort, on the part of all, in order that, eliminating all the obstacles for full communion, the day will come in which it will be possible to gather around the table of the Lord, to break the Eucharistic bread together and all drink from the same chalice.

Finally, prayer, or as St. Luke says, “the prayers,” is the fourth characteristic of the early Church of Jerusalem described in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Prayer has always been the constant attitude of the disciples of Christ, what supports their daily lives in obedience to the will of God, as attested to us also by the words of the Apostle Paul, who writes to the Thessalonians in his first letter “[r]ejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Ephesians 6:18). Christian prayer, participation in Jesus’ prayer is par excellence a filial experience, as attested to us in the words of the Our Father, prayer of the family — the “we” of the children of God, of the brothers and sisters — that speaks to a common Father. To be in an attitude of prayer, hence, implies being open to fraternity. Only in the “we” can we say the Our Father. Let us open ourselves to fraternity which stems from being children of the one heavenly Father and hence disposed to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Dear brothers and sisters, as disciples of the Lord we have a common responsibility to the world, we must carry out a common service: as the first Christian community of Jerusalem, beginning from what we already share, we must give a strong witness, founded spiritually and supported by reason, of the only God who has revealed Himself and who speaks to us in Christ, to be bearers of a message that directs and illumines the path of the man of our time, often deprived of clear and valid points of reference. Hence, it is important to grow each day in mutual love, committing ourselves to overcome those barriers that still exist among Christians; to feel that a true interior unity exists among all those who follow the Lord; to collaborate as much as possible, working together on the questions that are still open; and above all, to be conscious that in this itinerary the Lord must assist us, he still has to help us much because, without Him, alone, without “abiding in Him,” we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5).

Dear friends, once again it is in prayer where we find ourselves gathered — particularly during this week — together with all those who confess their faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God: let us persevere in it, let us be people of prayer, imploring from God the gift of unity, so that his plan of salvation and reconciliation will be fulfilled in the whole world. Thank you!

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, all the Lord’s followers are asked to implore the gift of full communion. This year’s theme — “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42) — invites us to reflect on four pillars of unity found in the life of the early Church. The first is fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by the Apostles. The second is fraternal communion, a contemporary expression of which is seen in the growing ecumenical friendship among Christians. The third is the breaking of the bread; although the inability of separated Christians to share the same Eucharistic table is a reminder that we are still far from the unity which Christ wills for his disciples, it is also an incentive to greater efforts to remove every obstacle to that unity. Finally, prayer itself helps us realize that we are children of the one heavenly Father, called to forgiveness and reconciliation. During this Week, let us pray that all Christians will grow in fidelity to the Gospel, in fraternal unity and in missionary zeal, in order to draw all men and women into the saving unity of Christ’s Church.

I offer a warm welcome to the students and staff of the Bossey Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies. I thank the choir from Finland for their praise of God in song. To all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.

[In Italian, he greeted the youth, sick and newlyweds present:]

I now greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. Dear friends, I invite you to pray for Christian unity. All of you who, with youthful freshness, or with endured self-giving, or with happy spousal love are committed to love the Lord in the daily fulfillment of your duty, contribute to the building of the Church and her evangelizing work. Pray, therefore, so that all Christians will accept the Lord’s call to the unity of the faith in his one Church.

Copyright 2011 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana [Translation by ZENIT]

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011

Mother Lurana White, SA

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has its origins in the Church Unity Octave, started in 1908 by the founders of an Anglican religious order, the Franciscan Society of the Atonement. The dates were chosen to run the week from the Feast of the Chair of Peter (18 January) to the Feast of the Conversion of Paul (25 January).

18 January was in fact one of two Feasts of the Chair of Peter on the Tridentine calendar, the other being 22 February. Some distinguished these as the Chair of Peter in Rome and the Chair of Peter in Antioch, though it is not clear that that was the original intent of the two dates. Since 1960, only the later date has been celebrated in the Roman calendar as the feast of the Chair of Peter, but the dates for the Week of Prayer remain the same.

(As an interesting aside, with the resurgence of interest in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, since Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum allowing more widespread use of the 1962 missal, some liturgical traditionalists observe the January feast date. However, this appears to be incorrect, as the 1962 missal was produced after the change to the calendar mentioned above.)

Fr. Paul Wattson, SA

The original octave focused on Anglican-Catholic reunion, and the themes as approved by Pope Pius X were a great example of what is now known as the “ecumenism of return” – which was common in the post-Vatican I period at the beginning of the last century (and which some fear is making a resurgence in these days… but more on that in a later post).

In fact, even before the Church Unity Octave was established by Father Paul Watson, SA, and Mother Lurana White, SA, there were calls for a time of prayer for Christian Unity. The Lambeth Conference, the decennial synod of the world’s Anglican bishops, in 1878 called for a period of prayer for unity around the feast of the Ascension. In 1895 Pope Leo XIII agreed, establishing a novena for Christian Unity from Ascension to Pentecost.

Since 1935, the Church Unity Octave began to expand to a more comprehensive Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, including prayer for the unity of all Christians. By 1957, there was quasi-official participation in the planning for the worldwide celebrations by a Catholic organization from Lyons, and in 1966 the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity officially became a joint project of the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. The materials used throughout the world have been prepared each year by a Joint Working Group of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Additionally, a local ecumenical community prepares the theme and symbols for the Week of Prayer, and this year’s local planners were the churches of Jerusalem.   The theme chosen for 2011 is: “One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer” (cf. Acts 2:42).

Each day of the Week has a different theme:

  • 18 January: The Church in Jerusalem.
  • 19 January: Many Members in One Body.
  • 20 January: Devotion to the Apostles’ Teaching Unites Us.
  • 21 January: Sharing, an Expression of Our Unity.
  • 22 January: Breaking the Bread in Hope.
  • 23 January: Empowered to Action in Prayer.
  • 24 January: Living in Resurrection Faith.
  • 25 January: Called for the Service of Reconciliation.

Compare that to the themes of the original Church Unity Octave, as approved by Pope Pius X just one century ago, to see “development in continuity” in practice for the Catholic Church’s teaching on the ecumenical movement. Unity is still the goal, in obedience to Christ and for the sake of the Church’s mission, but our understanding of this constant truth has clearly matured!

Note, not only the the marked difference in tone, but also the inclusion of prayer for the Jews both then and today, except that now it is on a day preceding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Note also the distinction between European Protestants and American Christians.

Church Unity Octave daily themes (c.1911)

  • 18 January: The Union of all Christians in the one true faith and in the Church
  • 19 January: The Return of separated Eastern Christians to communion with the Holy See
  • 20 January: The Reconciliation of Anglicans with the Holy See
  • 21 January: The Reconciliation of European Protestants with the Holy See
  • 22 January: That American Christians become one in union with the Chair of Peter
  • 23 January: The Restoration of lapsed Catholics to the sacramental life of the Church
  • 24 January: That the Jewish people come into their inheritance in Jesus Christ
  • 25 January: The missionary extension of Christ’s kingdom throughout the world

Papal Ecumenical Vespers on the Conversion of St. Paul

Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

The closing of the very busy Week of Prayer for Christian Unity every year in Rome is the Papal Ecumenical Vespers (Evening Prayer) at the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Built over the tomb of St. Paul, re-confirmed by tests revealed at the end of the Year of Paul last summer, and administered by Abbot Edmund Power and the Benedictine Abbey there, the basilica is known for its ecumenical significance.

In fact, it was at the end of this very service on 25 January 1959, closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, that Pope John XIII announced his intention to convene the Second Vatican Council, making very clear that ecumenism was to be one of the major themes of the council, along with the aggiornamento of the Church and a reconciled engagement with the modern world.

Pope Benedict XVI presiding at Ecumenical Vespers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This year, probably Cardinal Walter Kasper’s last as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pope Benedict XVI made special note of the 100th anniversary of the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, which marks the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement.

The basilica is outside the walls of the historic city centre, but only a few stops away by metro. Between exams and bad weather, and limited tickets, only a few of us from the Lay Centre were able to attend: Andrea, an Italian canon law student; Anna, our New Zealand liturgy student, and myself in one section; with our three Orthodox housemates Theodosius, Dimitrios, and Radmilo, escorted to the front as scholars of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

The readings and prayers of intercession were all offered by ecumenical guests and leadership, including the Archbishop of Canterbury’s permanent representative to the Holy See, Very Rev. David Richardson of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

The Holy Father’s homily is included in full below.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Gathered together in this fraternal liturgical assembly, on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, today we conclude the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet all of you warmly, in particular Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Archpriest of this Basilica, Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, along with the Abbot and the Community of monks whose guests we are. I also extend my cordial thoughts to the Cardinals here present, to the Bishops and to all who represent the Churches and ecclesial Communities of this City who are here today.

Only a few months have passed since the conclusion of the Year dedicated to St Paul, which gave us an opportunity to deepen our awareness of his extraordinary work as a preacher of the Gospel and also of our call to be missionaries of the Gospel, as the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminds us “You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24: 48).

Paul, although he retained an intense memory of his own past as a persecutor of Christians, did not hesitate to call himself an Apostle. For him, the basis of that title lay in his encounter with the Risen One on the road to Damascus, which also became the beginning of his tireless missionary activity. In this he was to spend every ounce of his energy, proclaiming to all the peoples the Christ whom he had met personally.

Thus Paul, from being a persecutor of the Church, was in his turn to become a victim of persecution for the sake of the Gospel to which he witnessed: “Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned…. On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11: 24-25, 26-28). Paul’s witness reached its culmination in his martyrdom when, not so far from here, he was to give proof of his faith in Christ who conquers death.

The dynamic of Paul’s experience is clearly expressed in the pages of the Gospel that we have just heard. The disciples of Emmaus, after having recognized the Risen Lord, return to Jerusalem and find the Eleven gathered together with the others. The Risen Christ appears to them, comforts them, overcomes their fear and doubts, and eats with them. Thus he opens their hearts to the intelligence of the Scriptures, recalling what had to happen, which would constitute the nucleus of the Christian proclamation. Jesus affirms: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24: 46-47). These are the events to which the disciples of the first hour were to bear witness, followed by believers in Christ of all times and places. It is important, however, to emphasize that this witness, then just as now, is born from the encounter with the Risen One, is fed by a constant relationship with him and animated by a profound love for him. One can only be his witness if one has had the experience of feeling Christ alive and present “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself” (Lk 24: 39) of sitting at table with him, of listening as he sets one’s heart aflame! For this, Jesus promises his disciples and each of us a powerful aid from on high, a new presence, that of the Holy Spirit, gift of the Risen Christ, who guides us to the whole truth: “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you” (Lk 24: 49). The Eleven were to spend their whole lives proclaiming the Good News of the death and Resurrection of the Lord. Almost all of them were to seal their witness with the blood of martyrdom, a fertile seed that has produced an abundant harvest.

The choice of the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the invitation, that is, to a common witness of the Risen Christ in accordance with the mandate he entrusted to his disciples is linked to the memory of the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference, in Scotland, widely considered a crucial event in the birth of the modern ecumenical movement.

In the summer of 1910, in the Scottish capital, over 1,000 missionaries from diverse branches of Protestantism and Anglicanism, who were joined by one Orthodox guest, met to reflect together on the necessity of achieving unity in order to be credible in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is precisely this desire to proclaim Christ to others and to carry his message of reconciliation throughout the world that makes one realize the contradiction posed by division among Christians.

Indeed, how can non-believers accept the Gospel proclamation if Christians even if they all call on the same Christ are divided among themselves? Moreover, as we know, the same Teacher, at the end of the Last Supper, had prayed to the Father for his disciples: “That they may all be one… so that the world may believe” (Jn 17: 21). The communion and unity of Christ’s disciples is therefore a particularly important condition to enhance the credibility and efficacy of their witness.

Now a century after the Edinburgh event, the intuition of those courageous precursors is still very timely. In a world marked by religious indifference, and even by a growing aversion to the Christian faith, it is necessary to discover a new, intense method of evangelization, not only among the peoples who have never known the Gospel but also among those where Christianity has spread and is part of their history. Unfortunately, the issues that separate us from each other are many, and we hope that they can be resolved through prayer and dialogue. There is, however, a core of the Christian message that we can all proclaim together: the fatherhood of God, the victory of Christ over sin and death with his Cross and Resurrection, and faith in the transforming action of the Spirit.

While we journey toward full communion, we are called to offer a common witness in the face of the ever increasingly complex challenges of our time, such as secularization and indifference, relativism and hedonism, the delicate ethical issues concerning the beginning and end of life, the limits of science and technology, the dialogue with other religious traditions. There are also other areas in which we must from now on give a common witness: the safeguard of Creation, the promotion of the common good and of peace, the defense of the centrality of the human person, the commitment to overcome the shortcomings of our time, such as hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the unequal distribution of goods.

The commitment to unity among Christians is not the work of a few only, nor is it an incidental undertaking for the life of the Church. Each one of us is called to make his or her contribution towards the completion of those steps that lead to full communion among the disciples of Christ, without ever forgetting that this unity is above all a gift from God to be constantly invoked. In fact, the force that supports both unity and the mission flows from the fruitful encounter with the Risen One, just as was the case for St Paul on the road to Damascus, and for the Eleven and the other disciples gathered at Jerusalem.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, grant that her Son’s desire may be fulfilled as soon as possible: “That they may all be one… so that the world may believe” (Jn 17: 21).

© Copyright 2010 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Witness through Hospitality: WPCU Day #8

From the official material prepared by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity


Genesis 18:1-8, Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves.
Psalm 146, He who gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
Romans 14:17-19, Pursue what makes for peace and mutual edification.
Luke 24:41-48, Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.


Today, electronic communication has made us neighbors in one small and overloaded planet. As in the time of Luke, many peoples and communities have had to leave their homes, wandering and journeying to strange lands. People of the world’s great faiths have arrived bringing new beliefs and cultures to our communities.

In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we recognize in our shared journey towards unity the hospitality and companionship of Christians of all churches. Christ also calls us to both offer and to receive the hospitality of the stranger who has become our neighbor. Surely, if we cannot see Christ in the other, then we cannot see Christ at all.

The story in Genesis describes how Abraham receives God in opening his house and offering hospitality to strangers. The God of all creation also stands with the prisoner, the blind, the stranger. Our psalm is an offering of praise for God’s everlasting faithfulness and all that God has done for us.

The text from Romans reminds us that the kingdom of God comes about through justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The resurrected Christ brings his disciples together, eats with them and they recognize him again. He reminds them of what the scriptures said about him and explains what they did not understand before. Thus, he frees them from their doubts and fears and sends them out to become witnesses of these things. In creating this space for encounter with him he enables them to receive his peace, that implies justice for the oppressed, care for the hungry and the mutual up-building as the gifts of the new world of the resurrection. Christians throughout history have found the risen Lord as they have served others and been served by others in faith, so we too can encounter Christ when we share our lives and our gifts.


God of love, You have shown us your hospitality in Christ. We acknowledge that through sharing our gifts with all, we meet you. Give us the grace that we may become one on our journey together and recognize you in one another. In welcoming the stranger in your name may we become witnesses to your hospitality and your justice. Amen.

Reflection Questions

To what extent is the country in which you live hospitable to the stranger?
How in your own neighborhood can the stranger find hospitality and a space to live?
How might you show gratitude for those who have shown you hospitality by being available?
How does the cross show us that God’s hospitality is a hospitality lived out in total self-giving?

Witness through Hope and Trust: WPCU Day #7

From the official material prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches:


Job 19:23-27, God whom I shall see on my side.
Psalm 63, My soul thirsts for You.
Acts 3:1-10, What I have, I give you.
Luke 24:36-40, The disciples were startled and terrified.


During their journey in life and faith, all Christians experience moments of doubt. The challenge faced by Christians is to continue to believe that even when they do not see or feel God, God remains with them. The virtues of faith, hope and trust allow them to give witness that their faith goes beyond their own possibilities.

The character Job gives us an example of someone who faced difficult trials and tribulations and even argued with God. In faith and hope however, he believed that God would remain on his side. This reliance and conviction is also shown by the actions of Peter and John in the account with the lame man as told in Acts. Their belief in the Name of Jesus allows them to witness powerfully to all who were present. Today’s psalm is a prayer reflecting our deep desire for God’s steadfast love.

Our meeting during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity allows our communities to grow in shared faith, hope and love. We bear witness to God’s steadfast love to all people, and God’s faithfulness to the one church we are called to be. The more we witness together, the stronger our message will be.


God of hope, share Your vision of the one church with us, and overcome our doubts. Increase our faith in your presence, that all who profess belief in you may worship together in spirit and in truth. We especially pray for all who are in doubt right now, or whose lives are spent in the shadow of danger and fear. Be with them and give them your consoling presence. Amen.

Reflection Questions

How do you deal with your own fears and doubts?
How might you be a cause of fear and anxiety for others by your behaviour?
When have you faced up to your own fears and doubts and so given witness to your faith in Christ by overcoming these difficulties?
How may Christian communities encourage one another in faith and hope?

Witness through Faithfulness to the Scriptures: WPCU Day #6

From the official material prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches:


Isaiah 55:10-11, The word that goes forth from my mouth does not return to me empty.
Psalm 119:17-40, Open my eyes that I may see the wonders of your Law.
2 Timothy 3:14-17, All scripture is inspired by God.
Luke 24:28-35, Jesus opens the Scriptures to His disciples.


Christians encounter God’s Word in a privileged way through reading the Sacred
Scriptures and celebrating the sacraments. In faithfully listening to the proclamation of Holy Scripture, and by prayerfully reading the various books of the Bible, they open their hearts and minds to receive the very Word of God. Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to make them understand the Word of God, and to guide them in all truth.

Historically, Christians have been divided in reading and understanding the Word of God. Fortunately, in recent times, in their search for unity, Sacred Scripture has brought Christians closer to one another. Shared Bible study has become a major means of growing together among them. The Christian journey that we celebrate during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is one that is firmly rooted in our shared listening to God’s Word, trying together to understand and to live it.The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s Word powerfully proclaimed is indeed effective and operative. It does not return to God empty but succeeds in the purpose for which He sent it.

This message is repeated in the words addressed to Timothy, as he is directed to believe in the efficacy of the Scriptures by which the faithful are equipped for every good work. Our psalm gives praise for God’s words and statutes and implores God to give understanding, that we may keep the Holy Law with our whole heart.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we pray that all Christians may enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s wonderful revelation as it comes to us in Holy Scripture. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us better comprehend the Word of God and to direct us on our common journey of faith until we will all be gathered again around the one table of the Lord.


God, we praise and thank you for your saving Word as it reaches out to us through the Sacred Scriptures. We thank you too for the brothers and sisters with whom we share your Word and discover together the abundance of Your love. We pray for the light of the Holy Spirit, so that Your Word may lead and direct us in our quest for greater unity. Amen.

Reflection Questions

What are the passages of Scripture that mean most to you?
Who or what in your life makes your heart burn with a passion for the gospel and a desire to give witness to Christ?
Which passages from the Scriptures have helped you to better understand the witness of other Christians?
How may our churches use the Scripture more effectively in their daily life and prayer?

Witness through suffering: WPCU Day #5

From the official material prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches:


Isaiah 50:5-9, The one who vindicates me is near.
Psalm 124, Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Romans 8:35-39, God’s love shown forth in Jesus Christ.
Luke 24:25-27, He interpreted to them the things about himself.


The reality of suffering is something that the Prophet Isaiah speaks about forcefully in today’s text, in which he reminds us that God is never resigned to seeing humanity suffer. In response the Psalm proclaims the trust that believers must maintain in their Savior.

The letter to the Romans proclaims the certainty that love is always strongest and that suffering and sorrow will never prevail. For before offering the resurrection to the world, Christ entered into a terrible death and into the dark depths of the tomb so as to be completely with us at our very lowest ebb.

In the Lord’s footsteps, Christians who seek full unity show their solidarity to those amongst them who are confronted in their lives with tragic situations of suffering, by confessing that love is stronger than death. And that it was from the extreme humiliation of the tomb that resurrection came like a new sun for humanity; a clamoring annunciation of life, forgiveness and immortality.


God our Father, look with compassion on our situations of poverty, suffering, sin and death, we ask you for forgiveness, healing, comfort and support in our ordeals. We give you thanks for all who manage to see light in their affliction. May your divine Spirit teach us the greatness of your compassion and help us stand alongside our sisters and brothers in difficulty. Filled with its blessings, may we in unity proclaim and share with the world the victory of your Son who lives for ever. Amen.

Reflection Questions

How can you show empathy to those who suffer and are in difficulties?
What wisdom and deeper understanding have you gained through suffering you have known in your own life?
How do you live out solidarity with the suffering and oppression that so many people living in poverty in our world experience, and what is your own experience of it?
How would you bear witness to the mercy of God and to the hope you find in the light of the cross of Christ?

Bearing witness through celebrating the faith we have received: WPCU Day #4

From the official material prepared by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity:


Deuteronomy 6:3-9, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
Psalm 34, I will bless the Lord at all times.
Acts 4:32-35, Of one heart and soul.
Luke 24:17-21, But we had hoped…


We have an enormous debt of gratitude to those whose faith has provided the foundation for our Christian lives today. Numerous men and women through their prayer, witness and worship have ensured that the faith is handed down to the next generations.

Today’s readings affirm the importance of supporting the community of faith in order to ensure the dissemination of the Word of God. The passage from Deuteronomy gives us the beautiful prayer of our Jewish sisters and brothers who every day use these words to praise God. The Psalm invites us to bear witness through praise for what we have received as believers, so that our faith may be shown through glorifying and thanksgiving. The extract from Acts reveals a community united in faith and charity. The gospel passage shows us Jesus as the center of what we have received in faith.

As we unite with our Christian brothers and sisters in praying for unity during this week, we welcome the rich variety of our Christian heritage. We pray that awareness of our common heritage may unite us more closely as we progress in faith.


Lord God, we give you thanks for all the people and communities who have communicated the message of the Good News to us, and thus given us a solid foundation for our faith today. We pray that we too may together bear witness to our faith, so that others may know you and place their trust in the truth of salvation offered in Jesus Christ for the life of the world. Amen.

Reflection questions

Who inspired you in your faith?
What are the aspects of faith which inspire you in your everyday life?
What do you feel were the most important teachings which were passed on to you?
How can you recognize God at work with you in the transmission of faith the future generations?

%d bloggers like this: