Catholics around the world will begin a week of prayer for Christian unity this coming Sunday using a passage from Ezekiel that resonates with the experience of the local Church divided between North and South Korea.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an annual celebration that is held every January 18- 25, and is promoted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The overall theme for 2009 comes from Ezekiel 37:17 which reads, "That they may become one in your hand."
The week of prayer has a text for reflection and prayer associated with each day of the week, and organizers say that this year’s texts come from "the experience of the churches in Korea." The Church in Korea, which was divided by the break between the North and the South in 1948, identifies with the prophet Ezekiel, "who also lived in a tragically divided nation and longed for the unity of his people," organizers explain.
The materials for the week of prayer and for the rest of 2009 have been jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.
Each day of the week will have a different theme:
January 18: Christian communities face to face with old and new divisions.
January 19: Christians face to face with war and violence.
January 20: Christians face to face with economic injustice and poverty.
January 21: Christians face to face with ecological crisis.
January 22: Christians face to face with discrimination and social prejudice.
January 23: Christians face to face with disease and suffering.
January 24: Christians face to face with a plurality of religions.
January 25: Christian proclamation of hope in a world of separation.
Although the traditional period for celebrating this week of prayer is in the month of January, in the Southern Hemisphere, churches sometimes seek other periods such as around the time of Pentecost. This time is also symbolically significant for the unity of the Church and was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926.
In the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 25, Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, Benedict XVI will close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by presiding at the celebration of Vespers.