December 18, 2015

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity a step toward all being one

Once again, the calendar challenges us to be attentive. Dec. 8 has passed. Dec. 25 and Dec. 31 approach. And a new year, 2016, quickly calls for all Christians to prepare for Jan. 18-25, the Church Unity Octave.

As noted in this column at this time last year, prayer among Christians seeking to express their longing for unity has been with us for more than a century.

The Octave, first observed in January 1908, is celebrated between the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair (Jan. 18) and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25).

The universalization of this observance began through the blessing of Pope Pius X. In 1916, it was extended to the universal Church by Pope Benedict XV. However, the actual coming together for common prayer among Catholics and other Christians did not occur until 1964 with the promulgation of the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, which states:

“In certain special circumstances, such as in prayer services for unity and during ecumenical gatherings, it is allowable, indeed desirable, that Catholics should join in prayer with their separated brethren. Such prayers in common are certainly a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity, and they are a genuine expression of the ties which even now bind Catholics to their separated brethren” (#8).

In 1993, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity issued the “Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms for Ecumenism.” Participation in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was explicitly encouraged.

Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity belongs to all Christians sincerely interested in the fulfillment of Christ’s prayer “that all may be one.”

This year, the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity have given the world a prayer service designed by Christians and Catholics of Latvia.

The prayer service and resources are based upon 1 Peter 2:9. It is titled “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord.” The relationship between baptism and proclamation is highlighted.

All the baptized are called to proclaim the mighty acts of God, especially the mighty act of God in Christ which has made us a chosen race, a holy people.

At 7 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2016, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will host this year’s prayer service. The site will be Allisonville Christian Church, 7701 Allisonville Road, in Indianapolis. Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin will participate, as will other Christian denominational leaders.

Preaching will be Rev. Robert Welsh, president of the Disciples’ Council on Christian Unity. As an ordained minister, he has been involved for more than 30 years in the ecumenical dialogue process in the United States between the Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ.

In October, he delivered a talk at the Synod on the Family in Rome. He is highly respected worldwide.

Rev. Welsh has a unique perspective on ecumenism. His wife is Catholic. A daughter married a Catholic, and they are raising their three children in the Catholic faith.

Plan to join in this time of hope and prayer. Bring your hearts which long for the Gospel to be proclaimed by God’s people in Christ. Hear the words of one of our dialogue pioneers and partners, who would have Christ’s words come to fulfillment.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also dean of the Terre Haute deanery and pastor of St. Patrick and St. Margaret Mary parishes, both in Terre Haute. E-mail him at

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