WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18: From the Vatican to many small congregations in rural America, this is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is one of the oldest and most widely observed ecumenical events in the world.
In his proclamation of the week at the Vatican on January 18, Benedict told the world: “This year’s theme—We Will All Be Changed By The Victory Of Our Lord Jesus Christ—was chosen by representatives of the Catholic Church and the Polish Ecumenical Council. Poland’s experience of oppression and persecution prompts a deeper reflection on the meaning of Christ’s victory over sin and death, a victory in which we share through faith. By his teaching, his example and his paschal mystery, the Lord has shown us the way to a victory obtained not by power, but by love and concern for those in need.”
This is far more than a Catholic observance, however. Organizers worldwide include the Graymoor Ecumenical and Religious Institute, which also helps to shape and promote the week. The Graymoor planning team includes scholars from various religious traditions including Methodist and Lutheran. The Graymoor site provides lots of resources for congregations—from prayer cards and bulletin announcements to questions for reflection.
Graymoor’s version of the observance’s history says the century-long observance, which started small and now circles the world, was inspired initially by the hope of reuniting Catholic and Anglican branches of Christianity.
Now, in the U.S., the National Council of Churches also encourages participation. The council includes a wide range of mainline, Catholic and Orthodox denominations. The National Catholic Register, an American Catholic newspaper, also covered the opening of the week.
Remember: It’s actually more than a 7-day “week.” This observance is actually an “octave,” which means that it lasts 8 days—January 18 through January 25.
Note to readers: If you are doing anything notable for this special week in your corner of the world, email us and tell us what you’re doing.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.