Worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Begins

Coming at a pivotal time when Christians are renewing their commitment to ecumenism, the 2006 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is being celebrated by nearly all Christian traditions around the world beginning today.

Observed every Jan. 18-25, the ecumenical movement involves believers anywhere from global councils including the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, national groups such as the National Council of Churches USA and Presbyterian Church USA, to local congregations. For eight days, Christians will be in prayer revolved around this year's theme, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them" (Matt. 18:20).

A week prior to the prayer movement, Pope Benedict XVI committed to dialogue with other churches during a meeting with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which included a delegation of Presbyterian and Congregational church leaders, at the Vatican, Jan. 7.

"Dear friends, I pray that our meeting today will itself bear fruit in a renewed commitment to work for the unity of all Christians," Benedict XVI said, according to AFP. "The way before us calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange."

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of WARC and stated clerk of PCUSA, confirmed the churches' joint commitment to unity.

"At the core of our tradition is the understanding that to be Reformed is to be faithful to Jesus' high priestly prayer 'that they might all be one ... that the world might believe,'" Kirkpatrick said at the Vatican. "We are grateful for new ecumenical breakthroughs between Protestant and Catholics."

The Week of Prayer has been jointly prepared by the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC since 1968 with a common text developed each year for worldwide usage.

"May we together, in the power of the Holy Spirit, commit our efforts to make the third millennium the era of the reuniting of the broken body of Christ," said Kirkpatrick.