"Learn to do good, make justice your aim" (Isaiah 1:17) is the topic chosen for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023, which in Jerusalem implicated the many Christian confessions present in the Holy Land. Nine prayer meetings which were held from 21st to 29th January, every day in a different place, attended by faithful and religious confirmed the ecumenical spirit of the communities taking part (Anglicans, Armenians, Lutherans, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Syrian and Ethiopian communities and Catholics of the Latin rite) who have lived together for centuries, each with their own peculiarity.
This year it was the words of the prophet Isaiah that led the prayer reflections : Isaiah spoke to reawaken the conscience of the people of Judea about the reality of a situation dominated by injustice and inequality, to be fought by rooting justice and rectitude in God. Today’s world, especially here in the Holy Land, reflects in many ways the challenges of the division that Isaiah faced in his preaching: the Christian world is summoned to commit itself to facing oppression and the divisions of the human family, and to be a witness and promoter of peace and justice.
The week of prayer in the Holy City started on Saturday 21st January (a few days after the official date) to allow the Armenians to celebrate Epiphany. As tradition has it, the first appointment was at the Holy Sepulchre, where the Greek Orthodox community led the prayer of Compline at the altar of the Crucifixion on Mount Calvary. The day after, on Sunday 22nd January, the prayer was hosted at the Anglican Cathedral of St George and on Monday 23rdat the Armenian Cathedral of St James. On Tuesday 24th January, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer welcomed a large delegation of the Christian communities and the Lutheran pastor Fursan Ayed Zumot reminded those present of the common mission to which all Christians of all confessions are summoned, “that of serving their neighbour.”
On Wednesday 25th January, the day of the conversion of St Paul, it was the turn of the Latin Patriarchate. During the prayer, which also particularly well attended, the Patriarch of the Latins, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa wanted to address words of encouragement to all the Churches of the Holy Land, recalling how they, “despite the many borders which for generations have tormented this Land, are very active in building the celestial Jerusalem” through schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly and everything that they have built up there. “They are our way of doing good here in the Holy Land and operating Justice, opening eyes to pain and oppression. However,” the Patriarch continued, “consolation does not only need gestures of acceptance but also a word. We have the duty of announcing the Gospel of justice and peace with life, but also with words.”
On Thursday 26th January, the prayer was held at the Cenacle, on Mount Sion, and was conducted by Rev. Fr. Maksymilian Nawara, O.S.B., abbot president of the Benedictine Congregation of the Annunciation together with the Benedictine community of the Dormition. Father Nikodemus Schnabel, Patriarchal Vicar for the pastoral of migrants and refugees in the Holy Land, in his homily invited the faithful present to put their faith back in the Holy Spirit, the descent of which took place exactly here in the Cenacle on the day of Pentecost. “The Holy Spirit is the force that overcomes injustice and oppressions, to follow justice and do good,” Father Nikodemus emphasized.
On Friday 27th January, it was the turn of the Syriac Orthodox community of the Patriarchate of Antioch and Jerusalem, in the Church of St Mark; the prayer was led by His Eminence the Archbishop Mor Anthimos Jack Yakoub, Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while on Saturday 28th January the prayer was held at the Orthodox Church of the Ethiopian community. The week of prayer for Christian Unity came to an end on Sunday 29th January in the Greek Catholic church of the Annunciation in the Old City of Jerusalem.