After the cancellation in 2021 due to the pandemic, the Christian communities of the Holy Land have returned once again to praying together in the churches of Jerusalem, for the 2022 week of prayer for Christian unity. This year again, the important appointment, which brings together the thirteen Christian confessions present in the Holy Land, took place a few days after the official date, to allow the Armenians to celebrate the Epiphany.
"We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage" (Matthew 2, 2) was the topic chosen for this year. The Magi are a symbol of the diversity of peoples, who share the same desire to see and adore Jesus.
From the Middle East, where the Word of God took root and produced its fruit and from where the apostles set off to preach the Gospel to the limits of the earth, the Churches of the Middle East wanted to launch a message of unity, even in the difficulties of the present time, due to the pandemic still under way and despite the freezing temperatures and the snow, which reduced the participation in the celebrations.
The week of prayer for Christian unity started on Saturday 22 January, with the invitation of the Greek Orthodox community to attend Complines in the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, at the altar of the Calvary. On Sunday 23 January in the Anglican Cathedral of St George, it was the Anglican community that hosted the Christians of Jerusalem for the ecumenical prayer, while in the Church of the Redeemer on Tuesday 25 January, it was the turn of the Lutherans.
The Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land welcomed the faithful on Wednesday 26 January to the Latin parish church of St Saviour, near the New Gate. The following day, the prayer for Christian unity took place in the room of the Cenacle on Mount Sion, led by the monks from the monastery of the Dormition of Mary.
On Friday 28 January the gathering will be in the Syrian-Orthodox Church of St Mark, close to the Jaffa Gate and on Saturday 29 January in the Scottish Church of St Andrew. The week of prayer for Christian unity will come to an end on Sunday 30 January in the Greek Catholic Church of the Annunciation in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Here in the Holy Land we experience ecumenism in everyday life,” said Fr. Amjad Sabbara, Franciscan friar and parish priest of St Saviour’s Church. “In our families we often have Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Maronites and Lutherans and we live together as Christians. This is possible because, despite our differences, we have something in common: Jesus Christ.” According to the parish priest, who presided the ecumenical prayer on Wednesday 26 January, the experience of the Magi who set off following the star is the example to follow, to learn another language: that of love and comprehension. “We have different stories and meet different obstacles along the way, but the Magi who followed the star also changed their path so we too must change the way we look at one another, we have to change the way we understand each other,” said Fr. Amjad Sabbara.
“Ecumenism is not looking at one another, but looking together in the same direction,” said Father Nikodemus Schnabel, Patriarchal Vicar for the pastoral care of migrants and refugees in the Holy Land who on 27 January presided the prayer in the room of the Cenacle. In ecumenical dialogue, it is important to ask ourselves if, as Christians, we really reflect the light of Jesus Christ: He is the True Light. “Here in Jerusalem where we have different dates for celebrating Easter, we nevertheless have the same faith in Easter, it doesn’t matter to which denomination we belong,” said Father Nicodemus. “This common faith is more important than our differences.” What the different Christians have in common, is the foundation of the profession of faith and that the true light, joy, a plan for each one of us, exists. “As Benedict XVI said, there are very many ways to reach God. In these differences, therefore, we have to keep going along the path, going towards the True Light.”