The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated in New Zealand between Ascension and Pentecost Sundays each year (25–31 May this year). In the Northern Hemisphere it is celebrated in January.
The Week of Prayer began as a Catholic observance in 1908 and in the 1920s other Christian churches began their own observance of a period of prayer for unity. In 1968 for the first time the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity jointly prepared materials for the Week of Prayer – a practice that has continued ever since.
Each year Christian churches in a different part of the world are invited to work together on the materials, which are adapted in each country for their own use. The Catholic Bishops Committee for Ecumenism adapt the resources for use in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The 2020 Week of Prayer materials have been prepared by Christian churches in Malta. This year’s theme ‘they showed us unusual kindness’ (Acts 28.2) refers to the shipwreck of St Paul and his companions on the island of Malta, when he was being taken to Rome as a prisoner. Malta inhabitants showed ‘unusual kindness’ to those shipwrecked in a violent storm.
The theme is relevant for our Covid-19 situation. As Cardinal John Dew says in his letter for the Week of Prayer: ‘The pandemic has been the equivalent of a shipwreck for many people; “unusual kindness” is needed as never before.’
The resources are available on the Bishops’ website catholic.org.nz and on diocesan websites and include a Liturgy sheet, children’s activities, prayers, Cardinal John Dew’s note for parish newsletters, Pope Francis homilies.
Published in WelCom May 2020