Tag Archives: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

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.”

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 explains the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This week, as you know, is a period of time for prayer (and fasting, I hope) for the intention of Christian Unity. The intention in my mind, and I might say, in the mind of the Pope, is a non-negotiable: we need not only to pray but to actively work for unity among Christians. This week, therefore, is an invitation to beg the Lord for the grace of unity for the Church.

Pope Benedict speaks to the matter of our own conversion, a deep change of heart viz. unity. We need a united witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ today.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2012

Week of prayer Christian unity 2012 logo.jpgThe theme of the ’12 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 Jan) is taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:51-58).

The Church prays for Unity among Christians

Make known in us, O Lord, the abundance of your mercy
and, in the power of your Spirit, remove the divisions between Christians, that
your Church may appear more clearly as a sign raised high among the nations and
the world, enlightened by your Spirit, may believe in the Christ whom you have

On the 25th, Pope Benedict will pray Vespers on the feast of the Conversion of St Paul at the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls with ecumenical partners. He’s been committed to this work of ecumenism and has worked to give the work a better and authentic focus. He’s called the “Pope of Christian Unity.” Let’s be united in prayer for the the intention of full, visible unity among Christians.

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]yahoo.com.
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