The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been globally celebrated this year with prayers, reflections, ecumenical services and events focusing on Paul’s question in Corinthians 1 “Has Christ been divided?” a theme for this year’s prayer materials, prepared by the Canadian churches.
Traditionally celebrated each year between 18 and 25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere), the week brings together in prayer Christians from diverse confessional backgrounds.
Since 1968, the liturgical and biblical material for the annual week of prayer has been jointly coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order Commission and by the Roman Catholic Church through the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
This year’s week of prayer materials were prepared by a group of writers led by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, Montréal, and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, Saskatoon, as well as the Atlantic Ecumenical Council and the Canadian Council of Churches in Toronto.
Diverse Canadian contexts were reflected in the service, which begins with prayer to God in the four directions, a practice of Canada’s First Nations communities, and concludes with the sign of peace, exchanged with an expression significant in French Canada, “Don de Dieu,” to express the particular gifts that different Christian churches can share with one another.
The introduction to this years’ theme, referring to the Canadian churches reads, “Living with this diversity, but being faithful to Christ’s desire for the unity of his disciples, has led us to a reflection on Paul’s provocative question in 1 Corinthians: “Has Christ been divided?”
“In faith we respond, ‘No!’ yet our church communities continue to embody scandalous divisions. 1 Corinthians also points us to a way in which we can value and receive the gifts of others even now in the midst of our divisions, and that is an encouragement to us in our work for unity.”
Prayers around the world
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) in partnership with Christian Aid have celebrated this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, linking the theme to concern for divisions and Christian faith, as well as to issues of poverty and advocacy of justice.
In Berlin, the Council of Christian Churches in Germany also held an ecumenical event for the week of prayer. Norbert Lammert, president of the German parliament, preached at the event at the St Hedwig's Cathedral, focusing on the theme “One faith in Christ as a bridge between cultures.”
A number of churches in Jerusalem, including churches from Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic traditions, held ecumenical services throughout the week of prayer.
The week of prayer was also celebrated in Republic of Korea, the venue of the WCC’s 10th Assembly, where the National Council of Churches in Korea, along with Catholic churches there, organized events.
Other ecumenical services during the week were also commemorated in Fiji involving the Fiji Council of Churches, as well as Peru, where ecumenical services were held by various churches.
In Geneva, several events were held to commemorate the week of prayer, including a vigil at the St. Pierre Cathedral, and baptism celebrated ecumenically at the major Sunday service.
A service which took place the Ecumenical Centre chapel was organized by the Fellowship of the Christian Churches in Geneva, at which the preacher was Bishop Charles Morerod, Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.
Students from the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute in Bossey currently in Rome, also participated in the week of papal celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.
Resources for the week are available in English, French, German and Spanish, and include an introduction to the theme; a suggested ecumenical celebration which local churches areencouraged to adapt for their own particular liturgical, social and cultural contexts; biblical reflections; and an introduction to the ecumenical contexts in Canada.