Week of Prayer for Christian Unity just the beginning

By 
  • January 8, 2010
{mosimage}Fuller, deeper and more meaningful prayers for Christian unity in Catholic parishes has to begin with the Jan. 17 to 24 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, say Catholics who have worked on preparing and promoting the annual event.

“It’s the prime event in terms of ecumenical work together, prayer together,” said  Jonas Abromaitis of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Abromaitis is commission secretary to the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews and Interfaith Dialogue.

Abromaitis would like to see parishes do more than include prayers for unity in the intercessory prayers one Sunday in January.

“Involve our young people who have been exposed to things like World Youth Day and the Eucharistic Congress. They have the energy, the vision,” said Abromaitis. “It’s a matter of getting people engaged, then giving them the tools and the opportunity to do this.”

Getting people involved in the Week of Prayer should begin with helping people to think, act and pray ecumenically all year long, said Adele Brodeur of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism. Since 2003 Brodeur has been a Catholic representative on the Canadian Council of Churches writing committee that adapts the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity prayers for use in Canada.

“This material can be used at other times of the year,” she said. “There are lots of ecumenical events that are happening year round. It’s not just in the eight days.”

Brodeur would like to see the Canadian Council of Churches publish a cheap, pocket-sized prayer book with prayers for each of the eight days in what used to be known as the Octave for Christian Unity. Encouraging personal prayer with the booklet would make people’s attendance at Week of Prayer liturgies more likely.

Once people are praying for unity and with Christians of other traditions they begin to see the importance of ecumenism, she said.

“It’s something that is in the plan of God’s salvation,” said Brodeur. “There’s something there in us coming together, all the faith traditions, and I think we have to learn from each other so that we can become better Christians.”

A recent CCCB survey of Canada’s bishops found dioceses find it difficult to plan Week of Prayer events because the Canadian edition of the prayers doesn’t reach them until late November or early December, when Advent and preparations for Christmas are in full swing, said Abromaitis.

The international edition of the prayers is available online, however, well in advance and planning for liturgies can begin before the kit is available from Novalis.

In Toronto the culminating event in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will feature Archbishop Thomas Collins preaching at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, 230 St. Clair Ave. W.

Though it seems obvious and natural now, the presence of clergy preaching in other churches is a measure of how far ecumenism has come, said Brodeur.

“I don’t think we realize that 40 years ago, or 50 years ago, you could not have an exchange of pulpits in a Catholic church,” she said. “There are a lot of things that have been accomplished.”

This year’s prayers and liturgies were originally prepared by a team in Scotland. The Scottish group uses Luke 24:46-48 as the biblical key to the week. From that passage, the declaration “You are witnesses of these things” is the theme.

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