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Church Unity Week

‘What does God require of us?’ is the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25. The Irish and British resources for the Week, including the suggested rite for the workship service, can be downloaded from www.ctbi.org.uk/weekofprayer.

The 2013 resources are based on the international material compiled by the Student Christian Movement of India, along with the All-India Catholic University Federation and the National Council of Churches in India. These groups were concerned that, as people gathered to pray for the unity which Christ wills for his Church, they would be aware of the call to break down any divisive and oppressive walls between peoples.

They believe that, in the context of great injustice to Dalits in India and in the Church, the search for visible unity cannot be dissociated either from the dismantling of casteism or from the contribution to unity by the poorest of the poor. Casteism results in the Dalits being socially marginalised, politically under-represented, economically exploited and culturally subjugated.

Almost 80% of Indian Christians have a Dalit background. Christians in India are called to reject caste divisions, just as Christians worldwide are called to reject the divisions among them: “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13).

Brian O’Leary SJ, the Jesuit Province Coordinator for Ecumenism has called on Jesuits, and their friends and colleagues, “to be imaginative in your approach to the Week of Prayer. What can you do on a personal level, on a community level, and as a member of the different groups and teams within which you serve?”

He has also ask that they listen to the recent series of podcasts entitled ‘Expanding Hope‘ on the Irish Jesuit website where former RTE broadcaster Pat Coyle, of the Jesuit Communication Centre, interviewed members of four Christian denominations, all living in Ireland, about their experience of ecumenism since Vatican II.

The interviewees were Gillian Kingston (Methodist), Gesa Thiessen (Lutheran, who has also produced a well-researched and informative article, “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Its History and Concerns for the Future” in Irish Theological Quarterly, 72 (2007), 74-87), Godfrey O’Donnell (Romanian Orthodox), and John Dunlop (Presbyterian).

These fellow-Christians have lived through some of the fifty years post Vatican II in different contexts and in a range of ministries. This variety gives their contributions a richness that is stimulating.

They speak candidly and sometimes critically. Brian O’Leary remarks: “It is necessary for us to hear these voices, especially when they speak of their views on the Roman Catholic Church”.

“If you have not yet listened to them, I strongly urge you to please do so now as these podcasts offer a powerful motivation to enter the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with renewed urgency,” he concludes.