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Prayer for the Unity of Christians

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18th - 25th January, the week leading up to the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, is particularly devoted to prayer for the unity of all Christians.

Papa Benedetto's @Pontifex tweet on 22 January 2013: 'What does the Lord ask of us as we work for Christian unity? To pray constantly, do justice, love goodness & walk humbly with Him.'

The homilies of our Holy Fathers at the Liturgy of Vespers on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul and their addresses during the preceding Week of Prayer for Unity, are included here along with links to resources of the theme chosen annually:

2015: Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink"  (John 4, 7)

2014: Has Christ been divided? (1 Cor 1, 13)
Preparatory material from Canada, where the annual meeting was held in Montréal.

2013: What does God require of us? (Micah 6, 6-8)
Preparatory material from India, where the annual meeting was held in Bangalore.

2012: We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15, 51-58)
Preparatory material from Poland, where the annual meeting was held in Warsaw.

2011: One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer (Acts 2, 42)
Preparatory material from Jerusalem – meeting held in Saydnaya, Syria

2010: You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24, 48)
Preparatory material from Scotland – meeting held in Glasgow, Scotland

2009: That they may become one in your hand (Ezek 37, 15-28)
Preparatory material from Korea – meeting held in Marseilles, France

2008: Pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5, 12a + 13b-18)
Preparatory material from USA – meeting held in Graymoor, Garrison, USA

2007: He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak (Mk 7, 31-37)
Preparatory material from South Africa – meeting held in Faverges, France

2006: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them (Mt 18, 18-20)
Preparatory material from Ireland - meeting held in Prosperous, Co. Kildare, Ireland

2005: Christ, the one foundation of the church (1 Corinthians 3 1-23)
Preparatory material from Slovakia - meeting in Piestaňy, Slovakia

2004: My peace I give to you (John 14: 23-31; John 14: 27)
Preparatory material from Aleppo, Syria - meeting in Palermo, Sicily

2003: We have this treasure in clay jars (2 Corinthians 4, 4-18)
Preparatory material churches in Argentina, meeting at Los Rubios, Spain

2002: For with you is the fountain of life (Psalm 36, 5-9)
Preparatory material CEEC and CEC, meeting near Augsbourg, Germany

2001: I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14, 1-6)
Preparatory material from Romania and meeting held at Vulcan, Romania

2000: Blessed be God who has blessed us in Christ (Ephesians 1, 3-14)
Preparatory material from the Middle East Council of Churches, meeting held La Verna, Italy

1999: He will dwell with them as their God, they will be his peoples (Revelation 21: 1-7)
Preparatory material from Malaysia, meeting held in Monastery of Bose, Italy

1998: The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8: 14-27)
Preparatory material from France, meeting held in Paris, France

1997: We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5, 20)
Material from Nordic Ecumenical Council, preparatory meeting held in Stockholm, Sweden

1996: Behold, I stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3: 14-22)
Preparatory material from Portugal, meeting held in Lisbon, Portugal

1995: Koinonia: communion in God and with one another (John 15: 1-17)
Material from Faith and Order, preparatory meeting held in Bristol, England

1994: The household of God: called to be one in heart and mind (Acts 4: 23-37)
Material from Ireland - preparatory meeting held in Dublin, Republic of Ireland

1993: Bearing the fruit of the Spirit for Christian unity (Galatians 5: 22-23)
Material from Zaire - preparatory meeting held near Zurich, Switzerland

1992: I am with you always ... Go, therefore (Matthew 28: 16-20)
Material from Belgium - preparatory meeting held in Bruges, Belgium

1991: Praise the Lord, all you nations! (Psalm 117 and Romans 15: 5-13)
Material from Germany - preparatory meeting held in Rotenburg an der Fulda, FR Germany

1990: That they all may be one...That the world may believe (John 17)
Material from Spain - preparatory meeting held in Madrid, Spain

1989: Building community: one body in Christ (Romans 12: 5-6a)
Material from Canada - preparatory meeting held in Whaley Bridge, England

1988: The love of God casts out fear (1 John 4: 18)
Material from Italy - preparatory meeting held in Pinerolo, Italy

1987: United in Christ - a New Creation (2 Corinthians 5: 17-6: 4a)
Material from England, preparatory meeting held in Taizé, France

1986: You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1: 6-8)
Material from Yugoslavia (Slovenia), preparatory meeting held in Yugoslavia

1985: From death to life with Christ (Ephesians 2: 4-7)
Material from Jamaica - preparatory meeting held in Grandchamp, Switzerland

1984: Called to be one through the cross of our Lord (1 Cor 2: 2 and Col 1: 20)
Preparatory meeting held in Venice, Italy

1983: Jesus Christ - the Life of the World (1 John 1: 1-4)
Material from an ecumenical group in Ireland - preparatory meeting held in Céligny (Bossey), Switzerland

1982: May all find their home in you, O Lord (Psalm 84)
Material from Kenya - preparatory meeting held in Milan, Italy

1981: One Spirit - many gifts - one body (1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13)
Material from Graymoor Fathers, USA - preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland

1980: Your kingdom come (Matthew 6: 10)
Material from an ecumenical group in Berlin, German Democratic Republic -preparatory meeting held in Milan

1979: Serve one another to the glory of God (l Peter 4: 7-11)
Material from Argentina - preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland

1978: No longer strangers (Ephesians 2: 13-22)
Material from an ecumenical team in Manchester, England

1977: Enduring together in hope (Romans 5: 1-5)
Material from Lebanon, in the midst of a civil war. Preparatory meeting held in Geneva

1976: We shall be like him (1 John 3: 2) or, Called to become what we are
Material from Caribbean Conference of Churches. Preparatory meeting held in Rome, Italy

1975: God’s purpose: all things in Christ (Ephesians 1: 3-10)
Material from an Australian group. Preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland

1974: That every tongue confess: Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2: 1-13)
Preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland

1973: Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11: 1)
Preparatory meeting held at the Abbey of Montserrat, Spain

1972: I give you a new commandment (John 13: 34)
Preparatory meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland

1971: ...and the communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13: 13)

1970: We are fellow workers for God (1 Corinthians 3: 9)
>Preparatory meeting held at the Monastery of Niederaltaich, FR of Germany

1969: Called to freedom (Galatians 5: 13)
Preparatory meeting held in Rome, Italy

1968: To the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1: 14)
In 1968, materials jointly prepared by the WCC Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were first used.

For more detailed info, take a look at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the Vatican website.

Blessed Paul VI's Homily at the Liturgy of the Word
presided over by Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury
Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, Friday 29 April 1977 - in Englishhttp://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/homilies/1977/documents/hf_p-vi_hom_19770429.html
http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/homilies/1977/documents/hf_p-vi_hom_19770429.html

"Already I have welcomed you, Venerable Brother, and those who have journeyed with you to this ancient and holy place. Today I welcome you all the more cordially, as we meet in prayer, humbled under the mighty hand of God (cf 1 Pet 5, 6), yet full of thanks for all the blessings that this liturgical season reminds us we owe to the divine goodness. As we meet in praise and thanksgiving, with petitions as wide and various as our troubled world, I am able to discern the profound reason for your visit and for my joy in receiving you. For with the Second Vatican Council I am convinced that “there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 7).

If we examine the list of pioneers in the search for unity, we cannot but be reminded of the majestic survey in the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews. It is a survey which puts the Holy Scriptures before us as a record of faith. And we are still “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12, 1), for those who in recent years have laboured in the cause of unity have witnessed no less to faith and hope, and to the perseverance which is their outward manifestation.

Venerable Brother, your presence here is a living expression of this faith and hope, continually being renewed in the Spirit who will guide us “into all the truth” (Jn 16, 13). I wish to join with you in proclaiming this faith and hope, borrowing the words of the Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism: “Before the whole world let Christians confess their faith in God, one and three, in the incarnate Son of God, our Redeemer and Lord. United in their efforts and with mutual respect, let them bear witness to our common hope, which does not play us false” (UR, 12).

I know well how near to your own heart lies this desire for common witness to Christian faith and hope, how much of your pastoral labour in many parts of your Communion has been untiringly devoted to it.

It is the experience of all of us today that the world desperately needs Christ. The young, in whose aspirations good is often seen most vividly, feel this need most strongly. Secular optimism does not satisfy them. They are waiting for a proclamation of hope. Now is our chance to bear witness together that Christ is indeed the way, and the truth and the life, and that he is communicated through the Holy Spirit.

Here is a task to which the Lord calls everyone who invokes his name. Those who are charged with the care of Christians, and who minister to them, feel especially the responsibility of fidelity to the apostolic faith, its embodiment in the life of the Church today, and its transmission to the Church of tomorrow. To discern “the signs of the times” calls for constant refreshment of mind and spirit at the Christian sources, and especially in the Holy Scriptures. In sending all ministers and teachers to the Scriptures, the Vatican Council borrows strong words from Saint Augustine: those ministers and teachers should remain in close contact with the Scriptures by means of reading and accurate study of the text, so as not to become like “one who vainly preaches the word of God externally, while he does not listen to it inwardly”. And from Saint Jerome it takes words even more pointed: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is indeed ignorance of Christ” (cf Dei Verbum, 25).

The supplications we make together this morning to our common Lord are steeped in the Christian love of God’s word, and they renew the reality of that pledge made together with us by your revered Predecessor - the pledge to a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that perfect unity in truth, for which Christ prayed. What a challenge, what an uplifting ambition is here! It is good that, while our experts continue their work, we should meet humbly to encounter our Lord in prayer. Indeed we might think of the example of Moses, supported by Aaron and Hur, holding up his arms in supplication for Israel (Lk 24, 27). Today we raise our prayers in support of those who strive for reconciliation and unity in Christ.

To falter in prayer is to falter in hope and to put the cause at risk. We know that a long road remains to be travelled. But does not one of the most moving accounts of the Risen Christ in Saint Luke’s Gospel tell us how, as two of the disciples travelled a road together, Christ joined them and “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”? (Lk 24, 27)

Let us listen as we walk, strong in faith and hope, along the road marked out for us."