The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
(January 18–25, 2017)
The Church Unity Octave, a forerunner of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was developed by Father Paul Wattson, SA, at Graymoor in Garrison, New York, and was first observed at Graymoor from January 18-25, 1908. Today, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus “that they all may be one” (John 17:21).
In 1966, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat (now Council) for Promoting Christian Unity began collaborating as a common international text for worldwide usage. Since 1968 these international texts, which are based on themes proposed by ecumenical groups around the world, have been developed, adapted and published for use in the United States by the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute.
Chosen Theme: Reconciliation –
The Love of Christ Compels Us
(2 Corinthians 5:14-20)
The 2017 theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been selected. On the occasion of the 500th anniversary year of the beginnings of the Reformation, the theme: "Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us" (2 Corinthians 5:14-20) has been chosen. The materials for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has two accents: reflection upon the main concerns of the churches marked by Martin Luther's Reformation and secondly recognizing the pain of the subsequent deep divisions which afflicted the unity of the Church. In selecting this theme, it is viewed as an opportunity to take steps toward reconciliation.
For the coming year the theme finds its origins in Pope Francis' 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel") when it used the quote: "The Love of Christ Compels Us" (Paragraph 9). The theme finds its scriptural context in 2 Corinthians. 5:14).. The Council of Churches in Germany (ACK) took up the work of creating the resources for this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. A committee comprised of ten members representing different churches met three times in 2014/2015 to develop the necessary texts. Within the 2017 materials there will be a particular emphasis on the ecumenical worship service for the Week while at the same time commemorating the Lutheran Reformation.
For 2017, it should be noted that this biblical text emphasizes that reconciliation is a gift from God, intended for the entire creation. "God was reconciling the world (kosmos) to God's self in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (v.19). As a result of God´s action, those who have been reconciled in Christ are called in turn to proclaim this reconciliation in word and deed: "The love of Christ compels us"
The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is January 18-25. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Servant of God, Fr. Paul Wattson, SA Founder of the Society of the Atonement, to cover the original days of the feasts of the Chair of St. Peter (January 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25) , and therefore have a symbolic significance.
Materials for the celebration in the United States of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2017 are prepared by the staff of the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute and will be available in the Fall.