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Candles being lit during the service. © Lara Takache Epiney/WCC

Candles being lit during the service. © Lara Takache Epiney/WCC



On 18 January, the first day of world celebrations of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017, an ecumenical prayer service took place at the Sacré Coeur church in Geneva, Switzerland, drawing more than 70 people from various congregations and denominations.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, traditionally celebrated annually from 18-25 January in the northern hemisphere, or during Pentecost in the global South, invites Christians worldwide to dedicate spiritual time for the sacred cause of Christian unity and to meet in prayer, regardless of their church or denominational identity.

The ecumenical service in Geneva was coordinated by Rassemblement des Eglises et Communautes Chretiennes de Geneve (RECG), an association of churches and Christian communities of Geneva, along with representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Marc Passera, RECG president, noted with his welcoming words, “It is Him who brings us together, it is Him who is at the source of our unity”.

In the spirit of this year’s theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, “Reconciliation – the love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14-18), Prof. Hans-Christoph Askani, vice-dean and professor of systematic theology at the University of Geneva, invited Christians to pray for peace and unity over the sacrificial power of the cross as a symbol of reconciliation not only with Christ and ourselves but also between Christian denominations and world religions.

Askani also referred to the Swiss tradition of planting crosses on hills and mountain tops as a blessing, while noting “today, people dismantle crosses, seeing them as a symbol of superstition, an endangerment to laïcité and symbolic testimonials of superiority to other religions”. He also invited the assembly to reflect on the true meaning of the cross as “a symbol of life’s victory over death, made by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

The participants prayed using materials prepared this year for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by the churches of Germany, with the coordination of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which have jointly published the resources for the week with a different national working group each year.

As part of the service, Old Catholic priest Jean Lanoy invited the lighting of candles, saying “a lit candle is truly a human symbol. It sheds light on darkness, giving a feeling of warmth, security and a sense of belonging. It symbolises Christ as the light of the world. Let the light of Christ provide reconciliation to our thoughts, our words and our actions.”

The ecumenical service, held in the heart of international Geneva, brought hope that individuals and communities can practice reconciliation in their own spaces and contexts and combine their efforts to realize visible global unity.

The WCC welcomes your stories of such celebrations to share with its global fellowship, partners and friends.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Group of Christian Communities and Churches of Geneva

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