Bossey students gathered in Rome. Photo: courtesy of Nich Sangsawangsajjakul

Bossey students gathered in Rome during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019. Photo: courtesy of Nich Sangsawangsajjakul

Twenty-nine students from the World Council of Churches (WCC) Bossey Ecumenical Institute traveled to Rome for the annual study visit to the Vatican, and to take part in the inauguration of the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is observed 18-25 January.

The students joined Pope Francis and other Christian leaders for evening Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Fr Prof. Dr. Lawrence Iwuamadi, academic dean at Bossey, said the visit of the students to Rome, following the visit of Pope Francis to Bossey last year, is remarkable in many ways. “Beyond the usual warm reception and hospitality given to Bossey students and staff, one could sense this continued commitment to work toward the visible unity of Christians,” reflected Iwuamadi. “The students were happy to learn more about the Roman Catholic Church and our hosts were happy to see hope in the future, embodied in the young women and men who come from different Christian traditions and from all over the world to study at Bossey.”

Fr Prof Dr. Ioan Sauca, director of the Ecumenical Institute and WCC deputy general secretary, said the visit to Rome every year is an eye-opener and a life-transforming event for the students. “Through visits to historical Christian sites and personal encounters, they learn in one week about the Roman Catholic Church today and its profound ecumenical involvement much more than what they have studied in classes for one semester,” said Sauca. “It reinforces the conviction of our common Christian roots and persuades students to search even more vividly for the unity of the divided Christians.”

According to Rev. Dr Simone Sinn, professor of Ecumenical Theology at the Ecumenical Institute, who also accompanied the students, “Pope Francis, in his homily, emphasized the importance of acknowledging the spiritual gifts given to others. Mutual partaking in the gifts nurtures the Christian people so that they can walk firmly and confidently on the path toward unity. We rejoice in the moments when we experience the energy that flows from an exchange of gifts with our students in Bossey and in Rome.”

In public remarks last week, Pope Francis said “ecumenism is not something optional,” adding that it aims “to develop a common and consistent witness that promotes true justice and support for the weakest through responses that are concrete, appropriate and effective.”

In an interview with Vatican News, Daniel Reffner, a United Methodist candidate for the ordained ministry from the United States, spoke about his experience studying ecumenism at Bossey and about how it has changed his perspective.

“My hope is that the formation makes me into somebody who is able to put himself in controversial conversations or controversial places and be somebody who can bring people together instead of perpetuating the polarizing dynamics we so often see,” he said.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been jointly organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) of the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC since 1968.

In 2019, the theme for the week is "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue,” inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20. Churches in Indonesia were invited by the WCC and the PCPCU to prepare resources for the week.

Study at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey

More information on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity