January 24, 2014

Building bridges

Archbishop Tobin leads prayer service for Christian unity at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin exchanges a sign of peace with Bishop Catherine Waynick, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, during a Jan. 19 ecumenical prayer service at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, the prayer service kicked off the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the city, which runs through Jan. 25. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin exchanges a sign of peace with Bishop Catherine Waynick, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, during a Jan. 19 ecumenical prayer service at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, the prayer service kicked off the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the city, which runs through Jan. 25. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Leaders of Christian communities across Indiana gathered on Jan. 19 with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis to pray together at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The leaders, along with members of the congregation in attendance, sang hymns, listened to Scripture readings, offered prayers and gave thanks for the spiritual gifts with which God has blessed each of the communities.

They also listened to a homily offered by Archbishop Tobin. (See a photo gallery from this event)

In it, he offered thanks for the hospitality he has received from many people, including leaders of various Christian communities in the state, during his first year of service in central and southern Indiana. He also praised the way in which archdiocesan Catholics and other Christians have worked together to help people in need.

Finally, Archbishop Tobin reflected at length on the way in which Pope Francis, elected last March, has encouraged ecumenical relations among Catholics and other Christians.

“From the beginning, Pope Francis has left little room for doubt that he sees the ecumenical and interreligious mission of the Church as integral to his vision for the new evangelization,” Archbishop Tobin said.

He went on to note that the pontiff sees “doing good” as a “principle that unites all of humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the ‘culture of encounter’ that is the foundation of peace.”

Archbishop Tobin said that the pope’s message has relevance for the Christian communities of Indianapolis and Indiana.

“In this city and state, we are called to expand the space in which a ‘culture of encounter’ might flourish,” Archbishop Tobin said. “We must meet each other doing good.

“ … We have much [good] to do in this city and this state. As we feed the hungry, welcome the stranger and carry out good works in the name of Christ, we will expand the culture of encounter that will help us to fulfill the prayer of Christ the night before he died for all: ‘ …that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me’ ” (Jn 17:21).

Speaking to The Criterion before the ecumenical prayer service, Angelique Walker-Smith, executive director of the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, anticipated Archbishop Tobin’s reference to Jesus’ prayer for unity when commenting on the need for prayer to promote Christian collaboration.

“Sometimes we don’t always give [prayer] the emphasis it deserves,” said Walker-Smith, an ordained Baptist minister. “The whole Week of Prayer for Christian Unity [which runs through Jan. 25] and the ecumenical movement comes out of the prayer of Christ that we would all be one before he went to the cross.”

The Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis co-sponsored the ecumenical prayer service at the cathedral with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Bishop Michael Coyner, who leads the United Methodist Church in Indiana, also participated in the service and spoke about the importance of prayer in advancing cooperation among Christians.

“Prayer has to undergird all of that,” he said. “If we don’t pray together, I don’t think we can act together very well.”

The prayer service moved St. Monica parishioner Maria Pimentel-Gannon of Indianapolis to tears.

“It was very emotional,” said Pimentel-Gannon, a member of the Church Federation’s board of directors and a past president of its board. “This would not have happened a number of years ago. Today, it’s happening, and praise the Lord that the barriers that we allowed to divide us are coming down so that we can really be one body of Christ.”

Also attending the ecumenical prayer service was Miguel Diaz, professor of faith and culture at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. He served as United States Ambassador to the Holy See from 2009-12.

He travelled to Indianapolis in part because of his friendship with Archbishop Tobin, which was formed when both were serving in Rome.

“It is always an honor for me and always a blessing to be among people who desire to build bridges,” said Diaz to The Criterion after the service. “As a diplomat and as a theologian, I believe that there is no greater task in this world than to build bridges among men and women of good will.”

He said that he believes Archbishop Tobin is one who seeks to build bridges.

“I believe that he is one of the great servants of God,” Diaz said. “He is truly a man of God, a man who builds bridges, someone who I deeply respect and care for. So I am deeply privileged to be here in his presence with other religious leaders as we pray for Christian unity and act on behalf of the people of God.” †

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