Prayer Service for Christian Unity
7 p.m., Jan. 24
St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Cathedral, 8141 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Shortly after celebrating the first Eucharist, Jesus prayed that “all may be one.” It is this prayer that is at the root of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18-25. Celebrated globally, the Arizona Faith Network is giving local faithful a chance to participate by sponsoring a Prayer Service for Christian Unity at 7p.m. Jan. 24 at St. Stephen Byzantine Catholic Cathedral.
“The Catholic Church has as its fundamental goal, when we talk about ecumenism, the full restoration of communion among all Christian churches and denominations,” said Fr. Michael Diskin, director of the Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs for the Diocese of Phoenix. “It is clearly the will of Jesus that His Church be one. We’re not being faithful to the will of Christ to see Christianity divided up into now hundreds, if not thousands, of various Christian traditions.”
The prayer service will be led by spiritual leaders from Christian denominations throughout the area.
While at this point in history it might seem difficult to achieve, “it would be a denial of our faith in the Holy Spirit to believe that we should not be taking whatever initiatives are possible to move toward that goal,” added Fr. Diskin, who also serves as president of the Arizona Faith Network.
The two primary ways of achieving that goal are prayer and dialogue, Fr. Diskin said. Dialogue occurs at the global level, as well as at the national level, and it’s encouraged at the parochial level, as well. Some fruits of the global dialogue include the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by both the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.
At the local level, Fr. Diskin suggested individuals from different denominations could study the Bible or ecumenical-related documents together, and congregations could sponsor joint events such as food and clothing drives, or address issues that affect the community as a whole.
“There’s certainly very positive things that could happen within a community when people of various congregations come together for the common good,” Fr. Diskin said.
Tips for parish ecumenical actions
- Membership in local ministerial associations
- Prayer and Bible study
- Holiday prayer services
- Social action
Having the prayer service at St. Stephen, the cathedral for the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Eparchy of Phoenix, also highlights the universality within the Catholic Church, said the eparchy’s Bishop John S. Pazak. The cathedral also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The prayer service, along with the entire week, will pull from Caribbean traditions to acknowledge “the hand of God active in the ending of enslavement,” according to a document from the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute.
Bishop Pazak, who will be preaching the homily for the prayer service, said the service will include prayers for unity and peace, and acknowledging a shared concern for the care of creation and concern for migrants.
The Byzantine Church is one of five liturgical rites within the 21 Eastern Catholic Church and is in full communion with Rome, a reality that has been described by Pope St. John Paul II as the “two lungs” of East and West. Taking the metaphor a step further, Bishop Pazak said that all denominations are “part of that vine of Christ.”
“We’re grateful that we have this opportunity to be part of the wider Christian community, because perhaps we’re not that well known and so this might help other congregations to know a little bit more about us,” Bishop Pazak said.
Fr. Diskin said he encourages every parish in the diocese to have an ecumenical representative and to honor the week in their own ways.
“They can do that through the prayers of the faithful at Mass [and/or] by joining with one or more congregations in their neighborhood to do something together,” he said.