Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor will celebrate the week of prayer for unity with a service at Westminster Abbey on Friday 18th January at 5pm. The 18th-25th January 2008 marks the centenary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Communities that prepare to celebrate the Week of Prayer include the Anglican, Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic churches, parishes and groups. Commissioner Elizabeth Matear Territorial President of Women’s Ministry, Salvation Army will preach at the service.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said: “The past 100 years of prayer and work for the unity of the Church has seen ever closer understanding and co-operation between Christians. The Ecumenical Movement has been a great blessing for the Church and we must continue to pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to deepen the communion that already exists between all Christians.”
As in previous years, the choirs of St Paul’s and Westminster Cathedral will celebrate Evensong and Vespers respectively in each others Cathedrals. The choir of St Paul’s will sing Evensong in Westminster Cathedral on 18th January at 5.30pm and the choir of Westminster Cathedral will celebrate Vespers on the 24th January at St Paul’s. The week will also provide an opportunity for the new Dean of St Paul’s to visit Westminster Cathedral when he preaches at Vespers on Sunday 20th at 3.30pm.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor will also send a bidding prayer to all parishes in the Diocese of Westminster to be included during the weekend Masses. It reads: “We pray for ever closer understanding and co-operation between Christians in this week of Christian Unity. May the grace of the Holy Spirit continue to deepen the communion that already exists between all Christians.”
The Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was started in 1908. It was known then as the Church Unity Octave celebrated from 18-25 January and was originally initiated by the American Episcopalian clergyman Revd Paul Watson. Watson converted to Roman Catholicism in 1909 and believed that Christian Unity could only be achieved through other Christian Churches returning to Rome.
In the 1930s the Week was given a wider remit through the work of a French Roman Catholic, Paul Couturier, who did not believe that it was necessary for all Christians to become Roman Catholics. The dates were maintained but the name changed from the Church Unity Octave to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Paul Couturier taught that 'we must pray not that others may be converted to us but that we may all be drawn closer to Christ'.
The Week is now a joint project of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, and has been since 1966.