Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Over the past year the Archdiocesan Ecumenism Commission members have been re-reading, studying and discussing Unitatis Redintegratio - the Degree on Ecumenism from the Documents of Vatican II. The discussions have brought to mind highs and lows with regard to Ecumenism in the Archdiocese over the fifty years since the degree was written.

When considering Chapter two of the document, The Practice of Ecumenism, it reminds us all that:
“Concern for restoring unity pertains to the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike. It extends to everyone, according to the potential of each, whether it be exercised in daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies. This very concern already reveals to some extent the bond of brother/sisterhood existing among all Christians, and it leads toward that full and perfect unity which God lovingly desires.” (Unitatis Redintegratio 5)

In his Apostolic letter “Porta Fidei” for the indiction of the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that “Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing” (Porta Fidei 8). He urges the faithful to re-read and study the Vatican documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, written twenty five years ago.

In preparation for the Year of Faith the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a note with pastoral recommendations. With regard to Ecumenism it states that during the Year of Faith, in co-operation with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, various ecumenical initiatives are to be planned, aimed at “the restoration of unity among all Christians” which was “one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council” (Conc.Ecum.VatII, Unitatis Redintegratio 1) In particular, there will be a solemn ecumenical celebration in which all of the baptised will reaffirm their faith in Christ.

All the faithful, called to renew the gift of faith, should try to communicate their own experience of faith and charity (Porta Fidei paragraph 14) to their brothers and sisters of other religions, with those who do not believe, and with those who are just indifferent. In this way it is hoped that the entire Christian people will begin a kind of mission toward those with whom they live and work, knowing they “have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for all” (Conc.Ecum.VatII pastoral constitution, Gaudium et Spes n1)

In this Year of Faith it would be good if all parishes or pastoral areas took time to reflect on Ecumenism using the Vatican II documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church as resource documents, and to consider where they are on the road to unity.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Great Britain and Ireland is traditionally observed from 18th to 25th January. Churches Together in Britain and Ireland have published a leaflet and have available resources to help parishes to observe the Week of Prayer. These are sent out to all parishes and can also be obtained from 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1BX or downloaded from www.ctbi.orh.uk/weekofprayer