Week of Prayer for Christian Unity kits available

  • December 8, 2006
TORONTO - The 2007 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was fired in the crucible of AIDS in Umlazi district, near Durban, South Africa.

The team that chose this year's texts and prayers for the annual week of liturgies, Bible study and contemplation was based in South Africa, a country where 5.5 million people are living with HIV, including 240,000 children under 15.

The New Testament text the group chose as the key to this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is all about healing. In Mark 7:31-37 Jesus cures a deaf man who could not speak by touching his tongue and saying "ephphata," meaning "be opened."

"The whole idea of healing was so central to their life and understanding of the church," said Fr. Damian MacPherson, archdiocese of Toronto ecumenical and interfaith office director.

When the South Africans looked at the call to ecumenism, they saw a church in need of healing, MacPherson said.

"Until the church overcomes that division we will always be in need of healing," he said.

The Week of Prayer runs Jan. 21 to 28. Every parish in Toronto has been sent one copy of a kit with liturgy, prayer and Bible study suggestions. The kit also includes suggestions for ecumenical prayer through the rest of the year.

Additional kits are $19.95 from the Canadian Catholic publisher Novalis (by e-mail at resources@novalis.ca or phone 1-877-702-7773 ext. 239).

This will be the 99th year of worldwide prayer for Christian unity, and the Franciscan friars who started it all back in 1908 are already getting ready for the 100th anniversary in 2008, said MacPherson, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement.

Church Unity Week was first observed beginning on the Feast of the Chair of Peter beginning Jan. 18, 1908. Franciscan Friars of the Atonement prayed the first octave for unity as Anglican Franciscans then were received into the Roman Catholic Church in the following year. The Faith and Order movement of Protestant churches expressed interest and published the "Suggestions for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity" in 1926.

The Week of Prayer really took off after the 1964 Decree on Ecumenism, prompting the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to begin working together on a common international text for the week starting in 1966.

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