Began in 1908, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally observed from January 18-25. It is jointly supported and sponsored by the World Council of Churches, a body which includes, among others, most of the world's Orthodox churches as well as many Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, United and Independent churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, representing the entire Catholic Church.
From a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI at the Conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, January 25, 2012:
As we raise our prayers, we are confident that we will be transformed and brought into conformity with the image of Christ. This is particularly true in the prayer for Christian unity. Indeed, when we implore the gift of the unity of Christ’s disciples, we make our own the desire expressed by Jesus Christ on the eve of his passion and death in the prayer he addressed to the Father: “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). The prayer for Christian unity, for this reason, is nothing other than participation in the realization of the divine plan for the Church, and the active commitment to reestablishing unity is a task and a great responsibility for all.
Although in our day we are experiencing the sorrowful situation of division, we Christians can and must look to the future with hope, since Christ’s victory means surmounting all that prevents us from sharing the fullness of life with him and with others. The resurrection of Jesus Christ confirms that God’s goodness conquers evil and that love conquers death. He accompanies us in the fight against the destructive power of sin that damages humanity and God’s entire creation. The presence of the risen Christ calls all of us Christians to act together in the cause of good. United in Christ, we are called to share his mission, which is to bring hope to wherever injustice, hatred, and desperation prevail. Our divisions dim our witness to Christ. The goal of full unity, which we await in active hope and for which we pray trustingly, is no secondary victory but an important one for the good of the human family.
In the dominant culture today, the idea of victory is often associated with instant success. In the Christian perspective, on the contrary, victory is a long—and in our human eyes—not always uncomplicated process of transformation and growth in goodness. It happens in accordance with God’s time, not ours, and requires of us deep faith and patient perseverance. Although the kingdom of God bursts definitively into history with Jesus’ resurrection, it has not yet come about fully. The final victory will only be won with the Second Coming of the Lord, which we await with patient hope.
Our expectation of the visible unity of the Church must also be patient and trusting. Only in this frame of mind do our prayers and our daily commitment to Christian unity find their full meaning. The attitude of patient waiting does not mean passivity or resignation but rather a prompt and attentive response to every possibility of communion and brotherhood that the Lord gives us.
This selection is included in Let Us Become Friends of Jesus: Meditations on Prayer by Pope Benedict VI (The Word Among Us Press, 2013). Available at wau.org/books