This week, the Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This annual event generally takes place between 18th and 25th January, and this year, the written material supporting the event, jointly published by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order, is based on the first letter of St Peter, encouraging the baptised to live holy lives and to ‘proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord’.
Ending last year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Pope had said – “To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity”.
Moving onto tangible signs of unity, at his General Audience at the Vatican this morning, Pope Francis asked us all to “reflect on, and bear witness to, our unity in Christ as God’s People”. He told his audience –
“We are truly the Holy People of God, even if, due to our sins, we are not yet a people fully united.. The mercy of God, which works in baptism, is stronger than our divisions.”
The Holy Father went on to speak about how our baptism means that we share “an unbreakable bond” and he expressed his hope that “together, may we respond to His call to share with others, especially with the poor and forgotten of our world, the gift of divine mercy which we ourselves have received”.
Despite our divisions, Baptism is the first Sacrament of mercy – in it, we receive redemptive grace and this is truly an act of mercy by the Lord. Baptism is also the Sacrament which joins us all in that bond referred to by the Holy Father – it is the ‘common Sacrament’, shared by the Christian churches regardless of division.
May all of us pray, in union with the Holy Father and with all Christians of good faith, for the fullness of Christian unity, for a day without division amongst the children of God, “that they may be one”.