‘Has Christ Been Divided?’ (Corinthians I) is the chosen theme of Christian Unity Week, January 18-25. Brian O’Leary, Jesuit co-ordinator for ecumenism in the province, says it’s a provocative question which will breathe freshness into the week of prayer which takes place annually. So too will some recent statements of Pope Francis including his remark in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) that ‘the move toward Christian unity is an indispensable path toward evangelisation’.
In a wide-ranging interview on the state of Christian unity today and Christian unity week this year he speaks to Pat Coyle of Jesuit Communications about the different way Pope Francis expresses himself on the topic compared with previous papal utterances. He quotes the powerful words he spoke in an interview in La Stampa as an example :”Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill, we are Christians. We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us … Unity is a gift that we need to ask for.”
According to Brian O’Leary the theme question for the week of prayer for Christian Unity – Has Christ Been Divided? is a rhetorical question for Paul – of course Christ is not divided. But the painful and indeed sinful fact is that Christians are divided and it is imperative that we all take responsibility for working toward healing that division.
So as well as discussing issues that divide us ( women priests, communion,) he also outlines some practical ways that Christians can work together to make Christian Unity Week fruitful even in small ways such as visiting the church of another denomination or attending or organsing an ecumenical prayer gathering. To this end there are booklets available to buy or download from www.ctbi.org.uk and there is a special Irish language edition available also on the website.