Praying for Christian unity in a time of pandemic
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed in many countries of South America, Africa and Australasia around the time of Pentecost. This year the global pandemic and lockdown prevented many of the usual in-person church services. However, a number of countries quickly adapted and were able to hold unity services through online livestreaming. In Brazil, the Ecumenical Commission of the Bishops’ Conference (CNBB), the National Council of Christian Churches (CONIC), together with Missao Somos Um (a Catholic Charismatic and Evangelical Pentecostal Mission) and the ENCRISTUS (the Meeting of Christians Looking for Unity and Holiness) celebrated the Week of Prayer with an emphasis on sharing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and a special prayer intention for the end of the pandemic. Various video-messages by leaders from different Christian traditions were incorporated into the broadcast. Similar online services were held in Colombia, where a Youtube video was posted of the Lord’s Prayer recited by Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian and Mennonite church leaders. The video invited all Christians to join in prayer for relief from the pandemic.
The Focolare movement organised a unity service of over 250 Christians from across Australia and New Zealand via Zoom on Pentecost weekend. The Anglican Archbishop of Perth, the Right Reverend Kay Goldsworthy, the Vicar General of Wellington Archdiocese, Monsignor Gerard Burns, and the Archimandrite of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Adelaide, Abba Yohannes Kebede, gave reflections on the theme of “unusual kindness” and fraternity as an “anti-virus”.
The Pontifical Council is grateful for these and other inspiring examples of continued prayer for Christian unity despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic.