Prayer for Christian unity is of course not a 20th century initiative: Christians have never ceased to pray, in so many ways, for their reconciliation. But it was in 1908, in the United States, that this prayer took the particular form that we know today, that of an “octave” between January 18 (which was the feast of the Chair of Peter in Rome ) and January 25 (feast of the conversion of Saint Paul). Its “inventor” is Paul Watson, an Episcopalian priest who had just created a Franciscan religious community within the Anglican American Church.
Christian unity, as Paul Watson envisioned it, actually meant unity around the Roman See. In the mid-1930s, as the prayer for unity between January 18 and 25 began to spread in the Catholic Church and in Anglican communities favorable to a union with Rome. It was Father Paul Couturier who, in Lyon, gave it new impetus: while keeping the same dates, the Lyonnais priest chose to speak of Week of Prayer (an eight-day week!), A vocabulary perceived as less Catholic; and above all, he assigns it a new goal: to pray for unity “as Christ wills it, by the means that He wills”.
This year, with this particularity: “Everyone at home, but praying all together”
On the occasion of Unity Week 2021 (January 18-25), Christians from all churches around the world are invited to reflect together on a common theme and biblical texts, in order to renew their efforts and prayers for reconciliation and unity of Christians. The theme for Unity Week 2021, taken from the Gospel of John, 15, 1-17, is “Abide in my love and you will bear fruit in abundance.” This year, the vagaries of the pandemic make it impossible to offer the usual program of Unity Week events in the diocese. However, we can:
– “to remind each other that we believe in God, our ‘good shepherd’ who has promised to be with us also in times of crisis”, especially in this time of the global COVID-19 crisis
And also everyone can commit themselves during this week to an ecumenical prayer, “each one at home but praying all together”