An invitation to participate in the Week of Prayer for the Unity of all Christians from January 18 to January 25
THE VATICAN.- Pope Francis has invited everyone to participate in the week of prayer for Christian Unity from 18 to 25 January and has taken up the gesture of meting with an ecumenical delegation from Finland.
This year the week of prayer, from January 18 to 25, focuses on a theme relating the experience of the Magi, who came from the East to Bethlehem to worship the Messiah King: “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him.”
In the same way the Pope has commented Christians of diverse backgrounds and traditions “are pilgrims on our way to full unity” who come closer to our goal when keeping our gaze fixed on Jesus.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has published resource materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that may be downloaded for use by all.
During the week, all Christians are invited to reflect each day on a specific theme, as part of the overall theme.
Themes for each day
•Tuesday, Jan 18th: “We observed His star in the East”
•Wednesday January 19th: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”.
•Thursday January 20th: “When king Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him”.
•Friday January 21st: “And you, Bethlehem… are by no means least”.
•Saturday January 22nd: “Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising”.
•Sunday January 23rd: “They saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid Him homage”.
•Monday January 24th: : “Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh”.
•Tuesday January 25th: “They left for their own country by another road”.
As his own ecumenical gesture the Pope welcomed an ecumenical delegation from Finland to the Vatican, on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
“The Magi reached the goal because they sought it,” the Pope said to them. “Yet they sought it because the Lord, by the sign of the star, had first set out in search of them.” Like the Magi, we too are sought by God, “and our response must surely be like that of the Magi: a journey together.”
Pope Francis stressed , “Those who are touched by God’s grace cannot turn in on themselves and live only for themselves; they are always on the march, always driven to go forward — and to go forward together.”
In this journey walking together, the Pope noted that some stages are easier, allowing us to “advance rapidly with perseverance.”
Sometimes, he said the journey toward full unity is difficult, which “can lead to a certain weariness and temptation to discouragement”.
Yet, the Pope encouraged Christians to remind themselves “that we are making this journey not as those who already possess God, but as those who continue to seek Him.” He called for courage and patience along the way, in order to encourage and support one another.
The holy Father pointed out two upcoming anniversaries ongoing journey towards Christian unity: the 1700th anniversary, in 2025, of the Council of Nicea; and the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Augsburg confession.
The Trinitarian and Christological confession of Nicea said the Pope, unites all the baptized, “For it is Christ,” the Pope said, “whom the men and women of every time, including our own, are seeking, however unconsciously.”
The Augsburg Confession was produced at a time “when Christians were about to set out on different paths” during the time known as the Protestant Reformation.
The Confession tried to preserve unity, although it did not succeed in preventing division, the Pope said. However, he said, this anniversary “can serve as a fruitful occasion to encourage and confirm us on our journey of communion, so that we can become more docile to God’s will, and less beholden to human strategies; more disposed to follow the route pointed out by Heaven than to pursue worldly aims.”
The Pope insisted, “the path to unity is important.” While the work of theologians and specialists is necessary and good, he said, “it is also good that we, God’s faithful people, go on the journey together.”
One way to unity pointed out by the Pope is “in seeking God boldly and in concrete ways” and to “keep our gaze ever fixed on Christ,” while remaining “close to one another in prayer.”
Materials in English: Download