The Week of Unity

Source: FSSPX News


“In a world thirsting for peace, it is urgent that the Christian communities announce the Gospel in a harmonious way”, declared the pope at the time of Angelus of Sunday January 18, 2004, as he opened the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

“I leave you my peace, such are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John which constitute the topic of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which starts today. It is significant that the Churches of the Middle East, where unity and peace are priorities, proposed this topic”, he continued.

“By promising His peace, Christ ensured His disciples support in the midst of trials. And are not the divisions, which remain between Christians a painful test? For this reason they feel this need to turn to their only Lord so that He may help them to overcome the temptation to be discouraged on this long difficult way which leads to full communion (...) It is essential that they testify to the divine love which unites them and that they become the bearers of joy, hope and peace, becoming the leaven of a new humanity”.

The pope then made a point of greeting those present from the East, “particularly the Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans” who are currently celebrating New Year’s day, which he hoped would be “serene and prosperous”.

This year 2004 has a particular character. It is the celebration, indeed, of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Fathert Paul Couturier. A priest from Lyons, he had a determining influence in the evolution of ecumenism and the organization of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

This Week of Prayer is prepared each year by an international and interdenominational Commission chosen from both the Pontifical Council for the Promotion Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches. For 2004, the meditation suggested, in particular by an ecumenical group from Syria, is drawn from the words of Jesus to His disciples in the Gospel according to St. John, chapter 14, verses 23 to 31.

Christians are invited to jointly ask for the peace given by Christ. “Not only the resolution of conflicts which tear humanity apart, in particular in the Middle East. But especially this filial attitude that He communicates to us by His Spirit enabling us to witness to the possibility of fraternity between women and men while accepting each others’ differences”.

Historical evolution of the Week of Unity:

In1894, Pope Leo XIII encouraged the practice of the Octave of prayer for unity. In 1935, in France, Father Paul Couturier took up the role of promoter of the Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In 1958, the “Christian Unity” center of Lyon started to prepare the topic of the Week of Prayer in collaboration with the commission “Faith and Constitution” of the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.).

In 1968, for the first time, the Prayer for Unity was recited on the basis of a text worked out by the commission “Faith and Constitution” of the W.C.C. and the Secretariat for Christian Unity.