Christian Unity Week to Focus on Mission

Leaders Affirm Urgency of Evangelization

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 21, 2009 ( Leaders of various Christian churches are affirming that the mission of their communities should foster a spirit of ecumenism rather than competition.

This was underlined in a document prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches for the 2010 Week of Christian Unity.

This document, recently published on the Vatican Web site, offers resources for the week, which will focus on the theme: “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).

The coming year will mark the anniversary of the 1910 World Mission Conference in Edinburgh, which “marked the beginnings of the modern ecumenical movement,” the document affirmed.

It stated that the idea of “mission” has a particular place in the efforts toward reconciliation between Christians, along with prayer, doctrinal accords and social cooperation.

The manuscript acknowledged that “not everyone naturally makes the link between missionary endeavor and the desire for Christian unity,” and in the past there were even “rivalries that existed between missionaries sent by different churches.”

However, it continued, these missionaries were often the first to recognize the “tragedy of Christian division” in the face of “enormous human and material need.”

They did not want to “export” these divisions from their home countries to the “peoples who were discovering Christ” for the first time.

Common spirit

In this context a century ago, the Edinburgh conference was called in Scotland to “help missionaries to forge a common spirit and coordinate their work.”

In a similar spirit, the churches will celebrate the 100th anniversary of this conference by reflecting on Christ’s final discourse before his ascension.

The document noted that at this moment in the Gospel, the “mission of the Church is given by Christ” and it “cannot be appropriated by anyone.”

The manuscript explained that after Christ’s sending, the disciples in the Gospel will go forth to witness in different ways, and “sometimes dissent may arise between them about what faithfulness to Christ requires, and yet all will work to announce the Good News.”

The resources offered for this week of unity include reflections on various ways of witnessing to the Risen Christ, and on the ways in which church division can be remedied.

In June 2010, church leaders will once again gather in Edinburgh to pray together and share perspectives on missionary work.

Conference participants will reflect on the issues related to the mission of evangelization today: secularization and de-Christianization, new means of communication, interfaith relations and interreligious dialogue.

The document affirmed that now, as in 1910, “Christians have at heart a similar sense of urgency: for our humanity wounded by division the Gospel is not a luxury; the Gospel cannot be proclaimed by discordant voices.”

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