“There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Christians worldwide mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on January 18-25, 2023 with hopes and sincere prayers seeking exerting concerted efforts concomitant with divine intercession to attain the long-aspired wish, namely Christian unity.
The theme chosen for this year is “Do good; seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17) which laments a lack of justice among the People of God and promises redemption by encouraging acts of justice. It furthermore indicates that Lord Jesus requires righteousness and justice from all of us, to create the desired peace and unity. Moreover, the theme, taken from the Holy Book reflects the Almighty Lord’s concern for the oppressed who suffer from injustice and inequality fed by hypocrisy that leads to disunity. It indicates that God requires righteousness and justice from all of us, to create the peace and unity that He desires. These virtues originate in God’s love for all, and racism runs counter to this vision. Isaiah’s challenge to do good and seek justice together applies equally to us today.
January 18-25 has always been marked as a week with nonstop prayers seeking divine intercession to attain the long-aspired wish, namely Christian unity. It is the week in which Christians worldwide make solemn and sincere prayers seeking Lord Jesus Christ’s mercy and inspiration to help attain the long-inspired Christian unity.
It is important in this regard to recall a fervent and resounding statement made earlier by Cardinal Péter Erdö, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and primate of Hungary, stating at the International Eucharistic Congress that the world is in a “burning need” of the witness of a united Christianity. Cardinal Péter Erdö asserted that “this unity is the will of Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who prayed that His disciples may be one, that the world may believe that the Father has sent Him. Our world today is in burning need of the testimony of a united Christianity.” He also stated that the belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist unites Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers despite their divisions.
In our modern time, Catholic leaders have never missed an opportunity to assert the need to attain the long-awaited and overdue Christian unity. His Holiness Pope Francis repeatedly stressed the need to attain such a unity. On June 3, 2022 he received in audience a delegation of young priests and monks from the Eastern Orthodox churches and addressed them, saying, “Unity is not simply an end in itself, but is closely tied to the fruitfulness of the Christian proclamation: Unity is for mission. Jesus prayed for his disciples that they “may all be one… so that the world may believe.” (John 17:21).
Furthermore, in his catechesis at the General Audience on January 20, 2021, the Pope reflected on Lord Jesus’ invitation to overcome discord and sow reconciliation, noting that He reminded Christians that “unity is achieved only with the grace of God, and not through our own force of will.”
Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako asserted on September 19, 2022 the need for “unity among Churches to maintain the survival of Christians in the Middle East”. He affirmed that unity does not at all mean denying and erasing individual identities or even worse dispersing them in an anonymous “uniformity”. On the contrary, unity means preserving “a common faith, respecting the leadership of each Church, its tradition, liturgy, nationality and language”.
With prayers for the attainment of Christian unity will be said worldwide, let us trust the Lord Jesus Christ’s promise that such a target will be attained and all debacles that stand in the way will be surmountable.
It is also important to note that the Catholic Church had earlier embarked on Christian unity with the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose origins are associated with the Second Vatican Council which met intermittently from 1962 to 1965. It is a pontifical council whose main objections are deigned to develop dialogue and collaboration with the other Churches and world communions, in addition to promoting within the Catholic Church an authentic ecumenical spirit.
As the Christians worldwide pray incessantly for Christian unity, it is to be admitted that unity is at hand and what is needed is serious desire to attain such a noble unity. Pope Francis repeatedly calls for the attainment of this noble goal and should not fall on deaf ears but rather be taken seriously. The door for Christian unity should not be closed but rather be left ajar so that one day the winds of love, reconciliation will engulf the Christian world with Lord Jesus’ dwelling in hearts of sincere people, so that the winds of unity will keep the Holy Spirit hovering in our hearts and minds while blessing this unbreakable unity.
May next year and the years to come have the Christians worldwide pray thanking the Almighty Lord for the noble and divine gift of unity, such a unity that will spread ineffable love in the Christian world marking the start of a new era with hands raised unanimously in praise and appreciation for the divine and nonpareil gift of unity.
We pray for Christian unity saying, “God of all, we pray as one, that we may be one, just as the Lord Jesus prayed we may be one in Him. Your son Jesus compels us to be reconciled to one another. May our spirits be joined to Your Holy Spirit that we may witness to the visible unity of your Church. May we all recognize that we are truly one with You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and grow together in peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.”
Let us consequently recall this noble verse form the Holy Bible which states, “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)