Category Archives: Ecumenism

Ecumenism is really a thirst for God

The document Unitatis Redintegratio (21 Nov. 1964) of the Second Vatican Council stresses spiritual ecumenism. Sometimes we overlook this aspect. But we can’t but focus on what is the soul of the ecumenical movement; theologians and church leaders have a lot of work to do on this point; I recall that  the saints have kept their eyes on this method, and so we as members of the Body of Christ have to keep focused on daily conversion, a daily turn toward the Lord.

With two noteworthy ecumenical monastic communities this week, Taize and Bose, the Pope spoke of three conditions at the center for Christian unity:

1. there’s no unity without conversion of heart, which includes forgiving and asking for forgiveness.

2. there is no unity without prayer and therefore men and women religious who pray for unity are like ‘an invisible monastery’ bringing together Christians of different denominations from different countries around the world.

3.  there is no unity without holiness of daily life. so the more we put our search for unity into practise in our relations with others, the more we will be modelling our lives on the message of the Gospel.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which concludes today (the feast of the Conversion of St Paul) meditated on the theme, “Give me a drink,” from the narrative of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus.

In his talk with the monastic communities whose primary work is Christian Unity, His Holiness spoke of the fact that we see in the Savior a “desire for unity” among the disciples, and that same thirst continues today especially with the divisions of the Christian community. The thirst of the Samaritan woman –and therefore each one of us– is a “thirst not only material for water, but above all our thirst for a full life, free from the slavery of evil and death.”

Francis calls us to pray about this fact: “Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises because it is he who gives to the Holy Spirit, the ‘living water’ that quenches our restless hearts, hungry for life, love, freedom, peace: thirsty for God.”

Theme for Pope’s visit to Holy Land set as Ut unum sint

The Holy Father is making a pilgrimage this May 24-26. The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land held a planning meeting in Tiberias where they settled on a theme and logo for Francis and the ecumenical as Ut unum sint. The logo (seen here) shows the embrace of Saints and Apostles Peter and Andrew. The two are known as the first-called by Jesus in Galilee, patrons respectively of the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople.

The news was announced by Terra Sancta.

This is not merely a “trip” but a pilgrimage. The distinction focuses attention to the spiritual and fraternal aspects of being present in a particular place for a particular reason.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew will meet in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in order to commemorate and renew the yearning for unity among Christians. The meeting recalls a similar meeting 50 years ago of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem.

History of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Tomorrow, January 25, the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul, ends the annual observance of our praying for unity among Christians. I hope you’ve had this intention in prayer this week! This afternoon I want to reflect a little bit on the need for unity among Christians by looking at history. A good Christian always has a sense of history. But referencing history is not a mere exercise; it is a dialogue, it is a manner of listening to another; history is to see the finger of God in good of human history seeing wisdom, knowledge, love, service, community. Indeed, God’s plan is always revealed in history. The concreteness of history charts the course of the future and not merely for the short term. The longview is a value!

These days I think we are moving away from praying and working for unity among Christians. The three recent popes have given us a vision for ecumenical dialogue and engagement. Just look at what Benedict did; look at what Francis is doing. Yet, those of us 3000 miles away from the Holy See are experiencing the heart’s tepidity. More and more I sense the seminarians, priests and bishops and laity give lip service to ecumenical relations but are doing little concrete. Here in CT I have not heard one prayer for Christian unity at Mass, or other services of prayer that I have been since the 18th; I have not seen the State’s bishops exhort the faithful to pray for Christian unity nor have anything meaningful for us to engage our thinking anew. Sad. We prayed for intentions of Pro Life –a most needed intention, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t have to be so binary in our thinking and acting as a community of believers as Pope Benedict showed us. He said and demonstrated that ecumenism is the way of being Catholic, and the lack attention is quite startling. It seems that vigor of year’s past ecumenism is collapsing. But it doesn’t have to.

We should ardently pray to God through the intercession of Blessed Gabriella Maria Sagheddu, an Apostle for Unity.


What follows was prepared jointly and published by The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and The Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.

c. 1740 In Scotland a Pentecostal movement arose, with North American links, whose revivalist message included prayers for and with all churches.

1820 The Rev. James Haldane Stewart publishes “Hints for the General Union of Christians for the Outpouring of the Spirit.”

1840 The Rev. Ignatius Spencer, a convert to Roman Catholicism, suggests a ‘Union of Prayer for Unity’.

1867 The First Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops emphasizes prayer for unity in the Preamble to its Resolutions.

1894 Pope Leo XIII encourages the practice of a Prayer Octave for Unity in the context of Pentecost.

1908 First observance of the ‘Church Unity Octave’ initiated by the Rev. Paul Wattson.

1926 The Faith and Order movement begins publishing “Suggestions for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.”

1935 Abbé Paul Couturier of France advocates the ‘Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’ on the inclusive basis of prayer for “the unity Christ wills by the means he wills”.

1958 Unité Chrétienne (Lyons, France) and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches begin co-operative preparation of materials for the Week of Prayer.

1964 In Jerusalem, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I prayed together Jesus’ prayer “that they all may be one” (John 17).

1964 The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II emphasizes that prayer is the soul of the ecumenical movement and encourages observance of the Week of Prayer.

1966 The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity [now known as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity] begin official joint preparation of the Week of Prayer material.

1968 First official use of Week of Prayer material prepared jointly by Faith and Order and the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (now known as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).

1975 First use of Week of Prayer material based on a draft text prepared by a local ecumenical group. An Australian group was the first to take up this plan in preparing the 1975 initial draft.

1988 Week of Prayer materials were used in the inaugural worship for The Christian Federation of Malaysia, which links the major Christian groupings in that country.

1994 International group preparing text for 1996 included representatives from YMCA and YWCA.

2004 Agreement reached that resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity be jointly published and produced in the same format by Faith and Order (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Catholic Church).

2008 Commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (Its predecessor, the Church Unity Octave, was first observed in 1908).

Prayer for Christian Unity

Christ icon Sinai 6thcFrom the 18-25 January 2014 the churches will observe what is called the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Paul VI in 1964 spoke of ecumenism not as a frontier, but a opening a door; not closing a dialogue, but keeping it open; not blaming for errors, but seeking virtue.

The work of dialogue among Christians can be extraordinarily beautiful and satisfying but it can also be difficult and frustrating. Much has to be focused on recognizing the Lord as the way, truth and the life, and then how to live the truth by relying with all our strength on the Holy Spirit. The key, in my estimation is not determined by human persons but by the Divine Persons. Spiritual ecumenism needs to be better known, lived and promoted. The object is for Christians to pray in a full visible way as one in Spirit and Truth.

The theme for 2014 is “Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor. 1:1-17)

Resources are found here.

Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu, pray for us.

Pope to Patriarch: pursue fraternal relations

For decades there has been an exchange of greetings between the Pope and the Archbishop of Constantinople. This is what you may say is a traditional expectation between brothers. Rome sends a message through a delegation on the feast of Saint Andrew (today) and the Orthodox do the same on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29). This year, the feast of Saint Andrew is the first time Pope Francis is able to write to Bartholomew. You’ll note that Pope Francis is keen on working for improved fraternal relations with the Church in Constantinople. Here is a Vatican Radio report.

To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith,
from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 (Eph 6:23)

andreaAfter welcoming with joy the delegation which Your Holiness sent to Rome for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, it is with the same joy that I convey, through this message entrusted to Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, my spiritual closeness on the feast of Saint Andrew, Peter’s brother and the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. With the heartfelt affection reserved for beloved brothers, I offer my prayerful best wishes to Your Holiness, to the members of the Holy Synod, to the clergy, monks and all the faithful, and – together with my Catholic brothers and sisters – join your own prayer on this festive occasion.

Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, this is the first time that I address you on the occasion of the feast of the Apostle Andrew, the first-called. I take this opportunity to assure you of my intention to pursue fraternal relations between the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is for me a source of great reassurance to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, the fruit of a grace-filled journey along which the Lord has guided our Churches since the historic encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, the fiftieth anniversary of which we will celebrate shortly. God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us throughout these years to regard one another as members of the same family. For indeed we have one Lord and one Saviour. We belong to him through the gift of the good news of salvation transmitted by the apostles, through the one baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and through the holy ministry. United in Christ, therefore, we already experience the joy of authentic brothers in Christ, while yet fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion. In anticipation of the day in which we will finally take part together in the Eucharistic feast, Christians are duty-bound to prepare to receive this gift of God through prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue.

Our joy in celebrating the feast of the Apostle Andrew must not make us turn our gaze from the dramatic situation of the many people who are suffering due to violence and war, hunger, poverty and grave natural disasters. I am aware that you are deeply concerned for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain in their homelands. Dialogue, pardon and reconciliation are the only possible means to achieve the resolution of conflict. Let us be unceasing in our prayer to the all-powerful and merciful God for peace in this region, and let us continue to work for reconciliation and the just recognition of peoples’ rights.

Your Holiness, the memory of the martyrdom of the apostle Saint Andrew also makes us think of the many Christians of all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities who in many parts of the world experience discrimination and at times pay with their own blood the price of their profession of faith. We are presently marking the 1700th anniversary of Constantine’s Edict, which put an end to religious persecution in the Roman Empire in both East and West, and opened new channels for the dissemination of the Gospel. Today, as then, Christians of East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the Spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation among Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting the contribution which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture.

It is with sentiments of profound esteem and warm friendship in Christ that I invoke abundant blessings on Your Holiness and on all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, asking the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God and of the holy apostles and martyrs Peter and Andrew. With the same sentiments I renew my best wishes and exchange with you a fraternal embrace of peace.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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