For over a hundred years, Christians throughout the world have gathered to pray for Christian unity. To witness to other Christians and to the world, they mark January 18 – 25 of each year as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As we prepare to celebrate the 2010 Week of Prayer in the parishes and schools of our Archdiocese, I call to your attention both the Church’s three major divisions that occurred around the years 500, 1000 and 1500, and the successful efforts over the past two decades to mend these centuries-old doctrinal divisions within the Church, the Body of Christ.
- In the late 400’s, the Assyrian Church of the East fell out of communion with the church in Rome, due, in part, to different doctrinal understandings of christology, the doctrine of the Incarnation on the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. In 1994, Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East proclaimed their common faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.
- In the early 1000’s, the Orthodox (Eastern or Greek) Church grew apart from the Catholic (Western or Latin) Church, following different doctrinal understandings of the Holy Spirit, including the addition of the filioque to the Creed by the Catholic Church. In 2000, in an official Catholic document, Dominus Iesus, the filioque (Son) in the Creed was excluded, as it is in the Orthodox Churches.
- In the 1500's, the Protestant Reformation resulted from internal Catholic disagreements on faith and works in the doctrine of justification in Jesus Christ. In 1999, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, and affirmed by the World Methodist Council in 2006, identifies a consensus on a common understanding that by grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and by the Holy Spirit, we are equipped and called to good works.
These three movements of the Holy Spirit are reasons to offer prayers of thanksgiving and of petition for churches to continue to move toward full communion. We can pray personally, communally, and by initiating or continuing ways to come together with our neighboring churches during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this January. Printed resource materials in English and Spanish for the 2010 Week of Prayer can be found at www.geii.org/wpcu_index.htm and you may contact our office at 312-534-5325 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further ways to accomplish this.
May our prayers at the beginning of the second decade of the third millennium of the Incarnation lead to many more reasons to celebrate – and pray for – an ecumenical third millennium.