Tomorrow, the worldwide Church will begin a weeklong celebration calling for prayer and increased awareness of the need for Christian unity around the world.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, begins tomorrow and will be celebrated through January 25th.
This year’s theme, inspired by the Gospel of Matthew, will be; "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Organizers of the event have chosen an ecumenical group from Dublin, Ireland to prepare the texts which will be used for prayer and reflection.
According to the World Council of Churches, the Ireland group was chosen, in part, because of the ongoing struggle between Catholics and Protestants which has wracked the northern part of that country with violence for decades.
Only now, they pointed out, is the process of peace and shared identity in Christ, slowly starting to take root.
The Vatican also announced today the particular themes which will be explored on particular days throughout the week including, “United through the presence of Christ, ‘One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;’” “Building Christian unity with Jesus in our midst - daily ecumenism, ‘You also ought to wash one another's feet;’” and “Praying together in Jesus' name, ‘The Lord waits to be gracious to you.’”
Themes for the latter half of the celebration will include, “From the past to the future - forgiveness and healing of memories Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy times seven,’” taken from the Jesus words in the Gospel of Matthew; “God's presence among us: a call to peace. ‘The Lord is with us;’” “Mission in Jesus' name. ‘So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost;’” and “Recognizing and welcoming God's presence in the other in Jesus' name,
’Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’”
On January 25th, the last day of the celebration, faithful will be asked to meditate on the theme: “One in hope, "On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you," taken from John 14:20.
Each of the days takes their theme from Scripture.
On Wednesday, January 25th, the last day of the Week of prayer and Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Vespers and mark the close of the 2006 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Although, the Vatican noted, January is the traditional period for celebrating the week of prayer, in the southern hemisphere, Churches will sometimes seek other periods such as the time of Pentecost, which, they said, is a symbolically significant date for the unity of the Church, and was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926.