The tradition of praying for Christian unity at Pentecost takes on new significance as physical prayer gatherings have been suspended in many places in an effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – celebrated for some around Pentecost and others in January – shows the continued commitment to work toward the visible unity of Christians. It brings different Christian traditions together from all over the world, opening eyes, strengthening faith, and reinforcing the conviction of our common Christian roots in a divided world.
Praying together is something that does not require people to physically gather in the same location, as Christian groups, including the global organizers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Roman Catholic Church, have noted repeatedly in recent weeks.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been jointly organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the WCC since 1968.
This year’s theme, “they showed us unusual kindness,” is taken from Acts 28:2, and draws on the story of Paul finding safety in Malta after a shipwreck. The resources for the week have been prepared by members of different churches in Malta.
WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca said that, as people around the world pray together and remember the hospitality received by Saint Paul and those who were shipwrecked together with him, they will reflect on the meaning of kindness and hospitality to strangers during this particular time.
“We pray for Christian unity in our diverse places and traditions, but we also make space for the concerns and gifts brought to us by sisters and brothers from other backgrounds,” he said. “Even keeping a physical distance, at this time can become an expression of kindness if we are attentive to the needs of the most vulnerable among us.”