Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Churches unite to ‘give a drink’

Back of Christ the Redeemer statue, overlooking the ocean, sky view, in Brazil

The Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil. This year, the Christian churches of Brazil prepared the internationally-used materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNDAY, JANUARY 18: The world’s billions of Christians turn to the churches of Brazil this week, as adherents join together for the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. An observance begun in 1908 as the Octave of Christian Unity, the Week of Prayer turns to a new region and theme each year. In 2015, Christians worldwide will be utilizing biblical resource materials prepared by the Christian churches of Brazil. With a history of tolerance for its varying social classes and ethnic groups, Brazil is now facing increasing levels of bigotry, violence and competition for the religious market—all of which are being directly addressed this week through dialogues, diversity awareness and more. This year, the theme is: “Jesus said to her: ‘Give me to drink’” (John 4:7). By symbolically offering water to anyone who arrives, Christians may appreciate the diversity of the Kingdom of God.

WATTSON AND OCTAVE OF STS. PETER AND PAUL

In 1908, Father Paul Wattson conceived of a week for Christian unity beginning on the Feast of the Confession of Peter, and continuing through the octave of Sts. Peter and Paul. (Wikipedia has details.) The idea was blessed by Pope Pius X, and Benedict XV encouraged its widespread observance; when the World Council of Churches was formed in 1948, the Week of Prayer was further encouraged. Two decades later, the official first materials were prepared for use by churches around the world. (Find this year’s materials available for download here.) In the Southern Hemisphere, where January is typically a time for vacations, churches celebrate the Week of Prayer at a different time—usually, around Pentecost.

FROM KENYA TO CANADA:
AN INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE

Churches around the world are addressing their members per the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.