Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Statement from the UAOC-Sobornopravna
Office of Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Affairs

Official Logo of the 2003 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity CLEVELAND, OH: During the third week of January, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Sobornoprava participated in The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In 1908, the Rev. Paul James Francis Watson, SA, founder of the Franciscan Society of the Atonement at Graymoor, NY started this effort which has become an annual world wide event.

Originally called the "Chair of Unity Octave," the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" is sponsored globally by the Society of the Atonement in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches. Adaptation of materials for observance of the "Week of Prayer" in the USA are coordinated by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, which invites contributions from the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and other ecumenists.

In towns and communities throughout the world, prayer services are celebrated by local Christian faithful and ministers, emphasizing what they hold in common rather than those things which divide them.

In the late Nineteenth Century, Metropolitan Platon of Kyiv observed, "Our earthly walls of separation do not go up to heaven." The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminds us of the Metropolitan's words.

Each year, a scripture verse is selected to set the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year's passage, from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, espouses the depth of hope that Christians must have, despite the sometimes disturbing relations between churches of the various denominations and their leaders, "We hold this treasure - this gift - in earthen vessels . . . therefore we do not loose heart . . ." (2 Cor. 4: 3-18).

Metropolitan Stephan, Primate of the UAOC Sobornopravna has often reminded the faithful gathered at services which have drawn a diverse crowd of worshippers that, "There is not an Orthodox heaven, a Catholic heaven, a Protestant heaven, and the like . . . but rather we are all called to a common destiny, in which we shall be united with our God and one another after our particular journeys in this life are over."

The "Week of Prayer" reminds us again of this important teaching of our Primate and that in the final analysis, all are equal before God regardless of their Christian denomination.

Unfortunately, religion can drive people apart rather than bring them together in fellowship. During this year's event, Christians of every denomination were united in spirit, prayer, and through the celebration of Christ's life giving salvation. The emphasis was not on who are Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, or Anglicans but only on the unitive reality of Christian brothers and sisters praying to God for a safer, better, more loving world.

Father Paul and Mother Lurana White, SA co-founded the Society of the Atonement while still members of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church. The society has as its primary mission, to foster unity between the Christian churches in the spirit of "At-one-ment." As time went on, these two pioneers of the ecumenical movement and their religious followers were received as members of the Roman Catholic Church, while continuing to work for unity among all Christians. Much of their vision became common place throughout the world, in the period following the Second Vatican Council and the rise of greater cooperation between various denominations. The Graymoor Friars and Sisters grew into a worldwide congregation of consecrated men and women with headquarters at Graymoor and in Rome, Italy, where they operate the "Center for Unity."

Although the event has now passed, its meaning, importance, and power to bring people together, without ever leaving their homes or parishes, continues. We should remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North and South America with their distinct, beautiful cultures and languages. And we must never forget that God's unconditional love is given to all His children. As Metropolitan Platon noted, there are no walls of separation in paradise.


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