(Custodia Terrae Sanctae) - This is this year’s theme: “Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord” (Peter 2:9) that brought together Christians in Jerusalem for the week of prayer for Christian unity. From Jan. 23 to 31, each church welcomed faithful who gathered for one hour of prayer each day. In the Holy Land, because of when the Armenian Christmas celebration fell, this week is celebrated out of sync with the rest of the world. The week is followed by many pilgrims and attendance was high. Everyone was able to discover the richness of the Churches in Jerusalem: Anglicans, Armenians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Syriacs, Coptics, Ethiopians, Byzantine Rite Catholics and Greek Orthodox.
Each community organized a prayer in its own rite and according to its own liturgical rhythm, while welcoming the active participation of faithful from other rites. The week of prayer began on Sunday, January 24, at St. George's Anglican Cathedral. Throughout the week, texts were read by representatives of various faiths and in different languages: Arabic, Aramaic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian, English, German, and Italian.
“The unity among ourselves depends on our unity with God,” began Fr. Jamal Khader, Rector of the Latin Seminary of Beit Jala. We read today’s Gospel (Mark 4: 1-20), and farmers know it: rich soil requires much preparation and effort. The same goes for unity. Are our lands ready for the seeds of unity?” The Holy Spirit gives [us] the grace of unity, he continued. “We already know this, but he also maintains [our] diversity at the same time. This diversity is not only a reality but a necessity for unity. Some people are afraid of diversity, and others continue to address the differences that separate us. They see them as obstacles to our unity. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to make us appreciate diversity and celebrate it. “Churches have a long history of divisions, wars, indifference but also mutual help. [Khader] said that the ecumenical movement has made these exchanges, meetings and joint prayers possible, and that they are a way of walking together along the path of unity. “However, if we are to be witnesses of Christ in the midst of the suffering of our times, we must do it together. For the world may believe in the Good News that we preach,” he concluded, “we must be one.”
As a symbol of unity, Lutherans and Melkites shared bread and wine, recalling the unity of all Christians in Jesus Christ. The Ethiopians, meanwhile, in white costumes and hats covered in crosses, sang and danced to the delight of everyone present.
The representatives of the various churches of the Holy Land are aware of how important Christian unity is at this time of suffering for Christians in the Middle East. The preaching and sermons of the various church representatives were witnesses to this fact. “We are in the dark because of our divisions because our lack of unity (...) We are in the dark because of the lack of love between us,” said Melkite Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey. “Unity leads us toward the joy of His resurrection, and toward the joy of the love of our neighbors and even our enemies.”