JERUSALEM, January 28, 2011 – Jerusalem Christians of all denominations have come together for fellowship and prayer during the week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 22-30).
This special week of ecumenical prayer has been commemorated throughout the world for 103 years and in Jerusalem for decades. However, this year the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity requested that the worship materials for the world-wide celebration be prepared by Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, remembering the first Pentecost, the focus of the week was on the unity through “the Apostles’ teaching, the breaking of break, fellowship, and prayer” (Acts 2:42).
For nine days crowds gathered at a different church each afternoon beginning on Saturday when Catholics and Protestants attended the “Apodeipnon” (compline) of the Greek Orthodox at the place of Golgotha in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was followed by services at the Greek Catholic and Armenian churches the following two afternoons.
On Tuesday afternoon January 25, the prayer was hosted by the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the old city. The Franciscan news service wrote that the sanctuary “was packed and a very warm welcome was given to Christians of all the different rites. The choir’s accompaniment to the whole meeting was highly evocative.”
Bishop Munib A. Younan focused the message for the day on the Apostles’ teaching from the early Jerusalem church noting the transformative power of education in today’s society. He compared this ecumenical program to a beautiful Middle Eastern carpet, where the various colored strands come together through the Holy Spirit as the artist creating a design originating in the Apostles’ teaching. “All eyes of the world are on Jerusalem,” he said. “I pray they will look at our beautiful carpet and say, ‘Look how much the Christians love each other.’”
During the rest of the week, this diverse and inspired community made their way to services at the Latin Catholic Church, the Upper Room, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Church, and finally on Sunday January 30 to St. George’s Anglican Cathedral.
In presenting the 2011 Christian Unity Week, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity together with the World Council of Churches underline the peculiarity of Jerusalem: “The current community experiences many of the joys and sorrows of the early church; its injustice and inequality, and its divisions, but also its faithful perseverance, and recognition of a wider unity among Christians. The churches in Jerusalem today offer us a vision of what it means to strive for unity, even amid great problems. They show us that the call to unity can be more than mere words, and indeed that it can point us toward a future where we anticipate and help build the heavenly Jerusalem.”
As part of the week’s ecumenical focus, Bishop Younan also took part in a panel discussion filmed by France 2 Television to be broadcast on January 30 in a two and a half hour special program including the unity service from Jerusalem’s Greek Catholic Church.
Click here to read Bishop Younan’s sermon from Tuesday’s service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.