"And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
January 18-25 is a week marked every year with hope and sincere prayers seeking concerted efforts concomitant with divine intercession to attain the long-aspired wish, namely Christian unity.
This week is sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order. Its theme for 2022 is, namely "We saw the star in the east and came to worship Him,” (Matthew 2:2) was chosen by the Middle East Council of Churches, originating with the churches in Lebanon.
The theme chosen for this year reveals how Christians are called upon to be a sign to the world of Lord Jesus bringing about unity with a common desire among all Christians worldwide to worship Him and seek His intercession to bring into reality the desired goal of unity. This theme indicates that in the midst of evil, we long for goodness. It implies that we look for the good within ourselves, but so often we are overwhelmed by our weakness that hope fails us, so our confidence rests in the Lord Whom we worship.
This star is a gift or rather an indication of God’s loving presence for all humanity. Christians are called upon to be a sign to the world of God bringing about this unity that he desires. It is the mission of the Christian people to be a sign like the star, to guide humanity in its hunger for God, to lead all to Lord Jesus Christ, and to be the means by which God is bringing about the unity of all peoples.
In his catechesis at the General Audience on January 20, 2021, Pope Francis reflected on Lord Jesus’ invitation to overcome discord and sow reconciliation. He also reminded Christians that "unity is achieved only with the grace of God, and not through our own force of will." Hoping that unity might prevail over conflicts, he called on Christians to pursue the path of visible unity, and recalled the Holy Bible's verse “That they may all be one.” (John 17:21).
Pope Francis has also invited everyone to participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. While welcoming an ecumenical delegation from Finland to the Vatican, on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 17, 2021, he said, “When will unity be achieved?” He recalled the remark of a “great Orthodox theologian” who said that “Unity will be in the eschaton” implying that it is not until the final consummation of time. Nonetheless, the Pope insisted, “the path to unity is important.” While the work of theologians and specialists is necessary and good, he said, “It is also good that we, God’s faithful people, go on the journey together.”
Furthermore, the Pope invited Christians to continue to journey together “in seeking God boldly and in concrete ways” and to “keep our gaze ever fixed on Christ,” while remaining “close to one another in prayer.”
In an earlier statement by His Holiness Pope Francis, he said, “The Lord asks us for unity; our world, torn apart by all too many divisions that affect the most vulnerable, begs for unity.”
The unwavering efforts to attain unity was evident during the first meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in February 2016 where they issued the Joint Declaration known as the Havana Declaration. It included 30 points containing a joint call by the two church primates for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and to wars in the region. They expressed their hope that the meeting might contribute to the re-establishment of Christian unity between the two Churches.
In 2014, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Pope Francis signed a joint declaration affirming their commitment to seek unity between their respective ecclesial bodies.
Furthermore, a resounding call for Christian unity came from Hungary as Cardinal Péter Erdö, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and primate of Hungary, said at the International Eucharistic Congress that the world is in a “burning need” of the witness of a united Christianity. He asserted that “this unity is the will of Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who prayed that His disciples may be one, that the world may believe that the Father has sent Him. Our world today is in burning need of the testimony of a united Christianity.”
Under the current delicate situation and hardships the Christians are experiencing in the world particularly in the Middle East, it is to be reaffirmed and re-asserted that this is the optimum time to restore the brightness of Christian unity, while seeking the help of Blessed Mary and the love of Lord Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus Christ, being the focus of all Christians, serves as the blessed cornerstone for Christian unity. Being sanguine about the attainment of the promised Christian unity, it is important to review what the Holy Bible says in this regard namely, "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
As all the Christian masses plead with the Almighty God imploring Divine Mercy to bring to reality Christian unity which will definitely restore love to the world at large and entrench the beauty of humanity, we pray saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, open our hearts so that we can welcome each other with our differences and live in forgiveness. Grant us to live united in one body, so that the gift that is each person comes to light.
With prayers for the attainment of Christian unity that will be said worldwide, let us trust the Lord Jesus Christ's promise that such a target will be attained and all debacles that stand in the way will be surmountable.