Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

18 January 2019

Pope Francis celebrated Vespers at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on Friday, 18 January, to mark the opening of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Pope processed into the basilica accompanied by other Christian leaders who minister in the city of Rome, and prayed before the tomb of Saint Paul alongside Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta and the Reverend Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church.

The materials for the Week of Prayer 2019 were prepared by Christians from Indonesia who chose the theme, “Justice and only justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 18:20). In writing about this theme they expressed their concerns that the rapid economic development of their country was leaving many behind in poverty.

Reflecting on the first reading (Deuteronomy 16:9-20) the Pope noted in his homily that the Law which Moses repeated to Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land insisted that no one was left behind or excluded. The reading describes how Israel’s feasts are to be celebrated with the full participation of everyone: sons and daughters, servants and strangers, widows and orphans.

“As God’s holy people,” Pope Francis said, “we too constantly find ourselves on the threshold of entering the Lord’s promised kingdom.” However, our divisions indicate that Christians, too, need to hear Moses’ summons to justice. Christians can adopt a worldly and possessive mentality even to the graces that God has given them, and disparage the gifts given to other Christians. “It is a grave sin” he continued, “to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters, and to think that God somehow holds them in less esteem.”

The Pope concluded his words by saying:

The worship befitting that kingdom, the worship demanded by justice, is a celebration that includes everyone, a feast in which gifts received are available to and shared by all. To take the first steps towards the promised land that is our unity, we must first of all recognize with humility that the blessings we have received are not ours by right, but have come to us as a gift; they were given to be shared with others. Then, we must acknowledge the value of the grace granted to other Christian communities. As a result, we will want to partake of the gifts of others. A Christian people renewed and enriched by this exchange of gifts will be a people capable of journeying firmly and confidently on the path that leads to unity.

In his address at the conclusion of the celebration Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, thanked Pope Francis for his presence and his passionate commitment to Christian unity. Cardinal Koch said that “Without the movement of prayer, the ecumenical boat would not have left the port”.

The Pope shared the final blessing with Metropolitan Gennadios and the Reverend Tim Macquiban.



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