WelCom May 2017:
Cardinal John Dew –
To mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Lutheran Bishop Mark Whitfield and I will preside at a combined Catholic-Lutheran service at Sacred Heart Cathedral at 3pm on Sunday 4 June. A warm invitation is extended to all to participate.
Each year the Holy See and the World Council for Churches work together to prepare materials for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Week of Prayer takes place between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost (28 May‒ 4 June in 2017).
The Catholic Bishops Committee for Ecumenism has adjusted the Holy See’s prayer materials for use in New Zealand. They have been sent to parishes and are available on the Archdiocese’s website (www.wn.catholic.org.nz). They include prayers for each day of the week, a suggested order for an ecumenical service, and a booklet explaining the Week of Prayer.
This year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 1517, when Martin Luther – and later John Calvin and others – began the movement that resulted in the separation of Protestant churches from the Catholic Church.
Praying for Christian unity is vitally important, especially this year we when commemorate the anniversary of our division. Christian unity is a particular focus of Pope Francis, who sees the search for unity as a journey that we undertake together, in a variety of contexts. He has reminded us several times, ‘When we work, pray and serve those in need together, we are already united’. The Holy Father’s interest, his actions and his example are leading to a blossoming of and a renewed interest in ecumenism worldwide.
I strongly encourage parishes to reach out to other denominations in their area and see if they can do something extra together during the Week of Prayer. It could be as simple as agreeing to double contributions to local foodbanks during that week.
Given the centuries of conflict, bitterness and even war that have marked a divided Christianity, it is remarkable we are now able to come together in peace to pray for unity. The power of decades and centuries of prayer for unity is bearing fruit. We must continue it.
Reaching out to our fellow Christians is one of the ten topics in the Archdiocesan Synod ‘17 participation process, which begins in early May. Thousands of people across the Archdiocese will have the opportunity to take part in a prayerful process of listening to one another and discerning what the Holy Spirit is saying. Their input will set the agenda and provide the material for the Synod weekend later this year in September. I hope thousands of people will also pray for the Synod. If we want evidence of the power of prayer and what it might do for our Synod, we need look no further than at the progress a divided Christianity is making in healing its divisions and wounds after centuries of conflict.