The importance of prayer for Christian unity


I would like to invite everyone to our annual Prayer for Christian Unity to be held Sunday, June 7 at 3 p.m. at Christ the King Church, 200 Windsor Ave. Haddonfield. We usually gather during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January but because of inclement weather the past few years, we decided we would try a more temperate time of the year and see how that goes. We chose the feast of the Holy Trinity, one of the core beliefs that binds us as one as Christians. All are welcome and we will have refreshments and fellowship immediately after the prayer service.

This year’s theme comes to us from Ezekiel 37:15-19, 22-24, “That they may become one in your hand.”

Each year a different country is chosen to develop the theme and prayer service so that other Christians in the world can have a better understanding of the ecumenical situation of the host country. This year’s host nation is the country of Korea. The Catholic community of Korea was founded in 1784 by the first baptized Catholic in Korea, Lee Sung-Hun, who spread the Christian doctrine among his fellow countrymen.

Protestantism was introduced in Korea in the 1880s. In 1919, Korean Christians cooperated with their neighbors of other faiths, for example, leaders of Buddhism, Chon Taoism and traditional religions, to resist the Japanese powers, for the sake of the independence of Korea.

The Korean ecumenical movement can be traced back to the recommendations and spirit of the Second Vatican Council and especially its Decree on Ecumenism, which emphasized the importance of all Christians’ efforts for Christian unity. The National Council of Churches-Korea, which represents Protestantism and the Korean Roman Catholic Church, have alternately hosted joint services for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity since the early 1970s.

Based on the experience of various scriptural and theological dialogues as well as many joint projects over the years, Korean Christians, both Protestant and Catholic carried out an ecumenical pilgrimage in December 2006. They visited Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, and the Patriarch of Constantinople in Istanbul.

During our prayer services for Christian unity this year, we are asked to pray for the promotion of unity and building of peace, for Koreans and all other divided nations. The current state of the Korean Peninsula, which prevents Koreans in one part from communicating with their parents, children, siblings, relatives and friends living in the other part, represents an unacceptable situation that must be changed. Korea’s unique experience of division calls our attention to all people who experience confrontation, antagonism, conflict, violence and war rooted in religious, racial and ethnic hostilities in their lands. As we pray for peace and unity, we are reminded that we must be models of such movements for the world.

Christians in Korea, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox, are working together for the common good — to bring an authentic peace to the Korean peninsula with neighbors of other faiths. The hope inspiring our prayer this year is that all people in the world will become God’s people; God will be their God and the people will be given the happiness of joy and prosperity when confrontation, conflict and division are surmounted and unity is achieved. Christians must pray with patience until the “new heaven and the new earth” come to pass “then they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23).

It was the local group from Korea who choose the theme, “that all may be one in your hand.” They found that the text of Ezekiel offered some compelling parallels to their own situation of division and that it spoke to Christianity’s experience of division. Ezekiel’s words gave them hope that God will gather God’s people again into one, calling them God’s own and blessing them to make them a mighty people. A new ultimate hope is born, that God will create a new world. Just as in the text of Ezekiel, where sinfulness is seen in all its ramifications of the people being defiled through idolatry and transgressions, so too with the sinfulness of the disunity of Christians, which has caused great scandal in today’s world.

Please join us as we pray with our leader, Bishop Galante and other Christian leaders for the healing of the Church and reunification of all nations divided.