Diocesan News

Bishop Brennan Calls For More Focus On Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — In the Gospel of John (Chapter 17, verse 21), Jesus prays to his heavenly Father that all who are consecrated to Him shall “be one.”

Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn have an opportunity to join this prayer for solidarity among Christian denominations during the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jan. 18-25.

The week of prayer will focus on the plights of Christians in Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East. (Photo: CNS/Hannah McKay, Reuters)

Bishops, clergy, and some parishioners in the Diocese of Brooklyn have joined this prayer event over the years, usually with single-day interreligious activities during the week, according to Father Michael Lynch, vicar for ecumenical and interreligious affairs.

“We’ve always had small and sometimes large gatherings for Christian unity,” Father Lynch said. “But, a lot of times, people didn’t hear about it.”

This year, Father Lynch said Bishop Robert Brennan decided to boost awareness of the annual observance and give Catholics opportunities to join in the prayers, and asked ecumenical leaders in the diocese to partner with its communications arm, DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the diocese, to develop the needed content.

“With all the different arms that we have to help people in our own diocese, we can now help them learn a little bit more about the importance of this work,” said Father Lynch, who is also pastor of Our Lady of the Cenacle Parish in Richmond Hill, Queens.

“On TV there’ll be these two-minute spots throughout the day, and they start with an introduction from Auxiliary Bishop James Massa,” he added. “And then, each day, different priests who have all been involved in ecumenical work one way or another, will give that prayer and those meditations and prayers in English. There also will be a broadcast in Spanish.”

The Graymoor Friars of Atonement in upstate New York started the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 1908. Subsequently, it was embraced in the mid-20th  century by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. 

The 2022 theme is “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship Him” — a verse from the story of the Epiphany as told in Matthew 2:1-12.

The star in the east above Judea led the Magi to the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The theme is intended to remind Christians worldwide to pray for closer communion with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayers will focus on the plights of Christians in the Middle East, where many of them are persecuted.

Special prayers will also be offered for people in Lebanon, particularly those who are still displaced from the devastating shipboard explosion that rocked Beirut in the summer of 2020.

“Why? Because of our wanting to be in solidarity with the suffering Christians of the Middle East,” Bishop Massa said. “They suffered so much.”