(WCC) The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated worldwide from 18-25 January, will be hosted this year by the Council of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK). As 2017 marks the commemoration of the Reformation, the week of prayer will reflect on the legacy of the Reformation and the current spirit of reconciliation in Christ.
“For Christians in Germany and all over the world, the theme Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us (2 Corinthians 5:14-20) can be considered both a calling and an opportunity for reconciliation”, says Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, World Council of Churches (WCC) director of Faith and Order, “a chance to break historical walls that separate churches and congregations from each other, during times that require healing and recovering hope”.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated worldwide, traditionally from 18-25 January in the northern hemisphere – between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul – or at Pentecost (a symbolic date for unity) in the global South. During the week Christians come together, in special ecumenical celebrations and services, recalling Jesus’s prayer that “they may all be one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21) and experience in praxis unity in diversity.
This year one of the many ecumenical prayer services taking place worldwide for the Week of Prayer will be held in Wittenberg (Germany), a town with a history and heritage identified with Martin Luther and the Reformation. It was there that Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses denouncing church corruption to the side door of the Castle Church, which still stands not only as a place of worship but as a memorial of Reformation.
Emphasis on the international ecumenical character of the Reformation legacy – on the occasion of the 500th anniversary year – is at the core of ACK’s witness to the world through this year’s Week of Prayer. The material prepared has two focuses: reflection upon the main concerns of the churches marked by Martin Luther’s Reformation and recognition of the pain of the subsequent deep divisions that afflicted the unity of the church.
Each year, a different national working group takes the initiative of proposing a theme and organizing the week, coordinated by the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which have jointly prepared and published the resources since 1968.
Mateus noted, “the need for a reconciliation that will break down barriers, build bridges and make peace has been the common request between the different German churches preparing the prayers this year, along with the recognition that amidst a deeply shifting and suffering world the healing immersion of prayer for unity can comfort the suffering in Christ, defeat terror and fear, and bring hope for the future.”