Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2010

Each year Christians throughout the world will gather during the month of January to pray for Christian unity. Here in the Diocese of Camden we will gather with our chief shepherd, Bishop Joseph Galante and other judicatory heads of local Christian communities on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 3 p.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, 2001 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill. We will gather for both prayer and fellowship. Light refreshments will follow the formal prayer gathering that will take place in the beautiful St. Mary Church. I would like to thank Father John Killeen and the parishioners at St. Mary’s for their kind welcome and hospitality. All are welcome and I encourage you to invite your non-Catholic Christian friends to join us in prayer and fellowship.

This year’s theme is “You Are Witnesses of These Things” from the Gospel of St. Luke. These are some of the last words of Jesus to his disciples before his ascension to the Father. The risen Christ declares us “witnesses of these things” (24:48), among them, the challenge to repent and the message of God’s grace “to all the nations.” The phrase “all the nations” is significant not so much in its geographical scope but in its theological inclusiveness. This inclusiveness is rooted in the grace available to all in the common waters of baptism. We are called to proclaim the good news of Christ’s resurrection to the entire world as baptized Christians. Our separation hampers our credibility in announcing this good news with one heart and mind.

Not all of us naturally make the link between missionary endeavor and the desire for Christian Unity. Yet surely the missionary commitment of the church must go hand in hand with its ecumenical commitment. Because of our baptism we are already one body and we are called to live in communion. God has made us brothers and sisters in Christ. Without denying the rivalries that existed between missionaries sent by different churches in the past to various places in the world, it should be recognized that those who were the first in the mission field were also the first to recognize the tragedy of Christian division. By virtue of our baptism and the great commission to proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth, we are fellow witnesses of what we have heard and seen.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives Christians an annual opportunity to continue our quest for the unity we already share in Christ. It is also a time to gather in praise of the Triune God and to deepen our understanding of the ecumenical movement, which is a mandate of Christ, as he prayed “that all may be one.” By joining in this annual celebration Christians raise their voices, hands and hearts to God seeking the fulfillment of this prayer of Christ.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also invites us who participate in it to use this time as an opportunity to examine the effectiveness of the ecumenical movement in seeking to end the divisions among Christians. From the smallest to the largest communities, from all cultures, races and language groups, from all the baptized to all those in ordained ministry, the Week of Prayer is also an opportunity to examine the level of support we have given to this important movement in the life of the church. An accounting of each Christian’s discipleship and faithfulness to the proclamation of the Gospel, the good news of reconciliation, can be taken every year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

As we recognize together the scandal that our divisions cause to the universal mission of proclaiming Christ crucified and raised, let us join in prayer together that these divisions may cease and with one voice and heart continue the call to evangelize. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a wonderful opportunity for Christians in South Jersey to gather and pray for this unity of mission and communion.

I would like to thank Mrs. Patricia Sandrow and our Diocesan Ecumenical Commission for all their dedicated preparation and work toward making our 2010 prayer service a success. I do hope you will come out on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 3 p.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church and join the bishop and fellow Christians in praying for the Unity of the Church, for as we know “You Are Witnesses of These Things.”

Categories: That All May Be One

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