Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Photo:canva.com
St Columbans Mission Society is joining the global celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which takes place each year from January 18th – 25th.
The annual observance has been marked by Christians around the world for over one-hundred years towards the fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper "that they all may be one" (John 17:21). The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches. Christians are also invited to seek opportunities to pray together throughout the year. Praying for Christian unity offers opportunities to share what is held in common and commit to ongoing steps to cultivate harmony, joy, peace and justice.
In stark contrast to these ideals, the world continues to exemplify the challenges and pain of divisions, imbalances of power and racism. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity challenges that some religious people continue to be complicit in perpetuating prejudice and oppression. With these realities in mind, the theme for the 2023 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “Do good, seek justice" (Isaiah 1:17).” The scriptural basis is that Isaiah taught how God desires righteousness and justice for all people, all of the time and in all spheres of life.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity says “Christians are called to go out and listen to the cries of all who are suffering, in order to better understand and respond to their stories of suffering and their trauma.” Inspired by the Spirit, Christians are invited to commit anew to ongoing prayerful reflection, transformation and responsiveness as agents of healing in God’s mission.
The Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches have prepared a resource for each day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The resource contains beautiful reflections on the theme ‘Do good, seek justice’ (Isaiah 1:17). The scriptural theme teaches how Isaiah showed the people in his day to learn to do good together, seek justice together and rescue the oppressed together, not by standing alone.
Day three of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites reflection on the virtues of justice, loving kindness and humility. Walking humbly with God means walking alongside others. “The love that God invites us into is always a love that gathers us into communion.”
Columban Fr Tom Rouse who lives and works in New Zealand speaks of commitment to community. Fr Tom says Columban missionaries “have long been committed to the principles of inculturation whereby we enter into the lives and cultures of the people among whom we work and live.” Fr Tom says friendships and experience have been transformational to Columban missionaries approach to mission over the years.
Pope Francis announced the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during the Sunday Angelus in the Vatican on Sunday 15th January. The Pontiff also announced an Ecumenical Prayer Vigil would take place ahead of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to take place in two parts during 4th- 29th October 2023 and in October 2024. Pope Francis stated “the path towards Christian unity and the path of the synodal conversion of the Church are linked.” The synodal process is a path of listening and discernment that invites the whole people of God.
“Gracious and loving God, expand our vision that we might see the mission we share with all of our Christian brothers and sisters, to show forth the justice and loving kindness of your kingdom. Help us to welcome our neighbours as your Son welcomed us. Help us to be more generous as we witness to the grace that you freely give us. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity resource (attached)
Let us join in prayer in a spirit of Christian unity for the needs of all around the world at this time.
Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon