Solidarity in aiding migrants informs upcoming week of prayer for unity

Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC

Maltese creators of the newly available materials for the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have focused on hospitality to the stranger as their theme, evoking the shipwrecked Apostle Paul’s statement that “They showed us unusual kindness” there (Acts 28:2).

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an international Christian ecumenical observance kept annually between Ascension and Pentecost in the Southern Hemisphere and between 18 January and 25 January in the Northern Hemisphere.

Each year ecumenical partners in a different region are asked to prepare the materials, including chiefly an ecumenical opening prayer service and biblical reflections and prayers for the eight-days of the octave, employed by churches around the world.

The choice of Malta this year has special significance, says Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, director of WCC’s Faith and Order Commission.

In recent years the tiny Mediterranean island has become a major destination and transit point of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, he notes.

“When the Mediterranean becomes a graveyard of people and civilization, Christians in the Mediterranean island of Malta remind us the words of the author of Acts of the Apostles following Paul’s shipwreck in that island: he wrote about the local people that they ‘showed us unusual kindness.’ In 2020 we will pray for unity in communion with those who, despite growing xenophobia, show ‘unusual kindness’ to the vulnerable.”

With roots going back over 100 years, the dedicated octave of prayers has been jointly commissioned and prepared since 1966, after the Second Vatican Council, by the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission.

This year’s materials are available in English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese.