The week of prayer for the Unity of Christians

Source: FSSPX News


The week of prayer for the Unity of Christians took place from January 18 to 25 on the theme :"Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them", taken from the Gospel according to St Matthew (18: 20).

The annual theme is prepared by an international and interdenominational Commission, emanating from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians and the Ecumenical Council of Churches who co-publish an official booklet for preparation.

At the origin of this week, "two periods of time, explained Yves M.-J. Congar in 1937, are officially and more especially devoted to prayer for the union of all Christians in one only Church: the octave of January 18 to 25, and the novena between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost. In the encyclical Provida Matris (May 5, 1895), Leo XIII requested that the days preparing for Pentecost be devoted to prayer for hastening "the work of reconciliation of our separated brethren". And at the end of his encyclical on the Holy Ghost, Divinum illud munus, (May 9, 1897), he established in perpetuity this novena "ad maturandam christianæ unitatis bonum"[1] and enriched it with indulgences. Ten years later, however, another initiative was taken in the Anglican world this time. Simultaneously, the pastor Paul James Francis Watson, an Episcopalian minister in New-York, founder of a "Society of atonement" (1899), and the Rev. Spencer Jones, in England, took the initiative of devoting to prayer for unity the days between the two feasts of the See of St Peter in Rome (January 18) and the Conversion of St Paul (January 25)." (in "Chrétiens désunis, principes d’un ‘œcuménisme’ catholique" by Yves M.-J. Congard, published by Le Cerf, 1937)

Since 1974, the preparation of the Week for Unity has been entrusted to local groups. Thus this year, the ecumenical group of Dublin (Ireland) was given the task of formulating the prayer of Christians in the whole world.

Benedict XVI concluded the Week with the Vespers of the Conversion of Saint Paul in the Major Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls. When he was Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger, in a conference given in April 1991, underlined the fact that "the most ticklish subject in the ecumenical debate" pertained to the primacy of Peter.

On the day after his accession to the pontifical throne, in front of all the cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel, Benedict XVI committed himself to "labor unsparingly for the reconstruction of full and visible unity of all of Christ’s faithful", and "to do all that he could to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism."

[1] To foster the unity of Christians.