18 January 2013
In this image from 2011, Italian Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, welcomes Christian prelates to an ecumenical evening prayer service with Pope Benedict XVI to mark the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
When you go to church this week, you might not see your pastor. He might be down the street at the Presbyterian church — and the Presbyterian minister might be delivering a sermon to you.
Such pulpit exchanges are common during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a 105-year-old effort of the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches to promote understanding and harmony among the followers of Jesus Christ. This year the Week of Prayer starts today.
Working toward Christian unity is a big part of CNEWA’s mission and ministry on behalf of the Holy Father. And so here are five quotes to get you thinking about and praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ.
The first is from Vatican II and its Decree on Ecumenism (“Unitatis Redintegratio”): “The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principle concern of the Second Vatican Council.” This decree made ecumenism central to the work of the Catholic Church.
Regarding other churches, the council stated:
“Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church...” and “the separated churches and communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the church.”
Blessed John Paul II, in his encyclical “Ut Unum Sint” (“That They May be One”), declared:
“Thus it is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian Unity, is not just some sort of ‘appendix’ [the Holy Father’s emphasis] which is added to the church’s traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work, and consequently must pervade all she is and does...”
Pope Benedict marked the Week of Prayer this year by inviting Christians “to pray, asking insistently to God, for the great gift of unity between all of the Lord’s disciples. May the Holy Spirit’s limitless strength arouse us to the sincere commitment to seek unity, so that we might all progress together that Jesus is the savior of the world.”
The last is a prayer written for this year’s observance. Please join your voice with your brother and sister Christians in asking for God’s help in uniting the church:
“Jesus Christ, we proclaim with joy our common identity in you, and we thank you for inviting us into a dialogue of love with you. Open our hearts to share more perfectly in your prayer to the Father that we may be one, so that as we journey together we may draw closer to each other. Give us the courage to bear witness to the truth together, and may our conversations embrace those who perpetuate disunity. Send your Spirit to empower us to challenge situations where dignity and compassion are lacking in our societies, nations, and the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.”
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Christianity Unity Ecumenism Christian Unity