Cardinal Kurt Koch presided at Vespers (scroll down for video) for the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (25 January 2021) in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. The Vespers, which conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, are usually presided over by the Pope, who was this year unable to attend. The materials for the Week of Prayer 2021 had been prepared by the Community of Grandchamp on the theme “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit” (cf. Jn 15:5-9). Cardinal Koch read Pope Francis’s homily which imagined unity as three concentric rings: the first of these is the unity, or personal integrity, which comes from abiding in Christ in private prayer; the second is the unity of Christians, for as we draw closer to God we are drawn closer to fellow Christians; and the third unity is that of the whole of humanity. Cardinal Koch read Pope Francis’s striking words, “If our worship is genuine, we will grow in love for all those who follow Jesus, regardless of the Christian communion to which they may belong, for even though they may not be ‘one of ours’, they are his.”
As in previous years the Vespers were attended by many Christian leaders and representatives based in Italy. In choir on each side of Cardinal Koch were Bishop Atanasie of Bogdania (Episcopal Vicar of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Italy) and the Right Reverend Archbishop Ian Ernest (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See) who read prayers. Also in choir were Bishop Barnaba El Soryani (Coptic Orthodox Church in Italy), Archbishop Khajag Barsamian (Pontifical Legate of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Western Europe and Representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Rome), Archimandrite Simeon Catsinas (Parish Priest of San Teodoro, Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), Father Alexey Maximov (Santa Caterina Church, Moscow Patriarchate), the Revd Heiner Bludau (Dean of the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Italy), the Revd Alessandra Trotta (Moderator of the Waldensian Table, Italy), the Revd Matthew Laferty (Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome), and Lieutenant Colonel Jacques Donzé (Salvation Army, Italy).
Photos © Servizio Fotografico | Vatican Media