Putting love at the heart of the Christian family

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) begins on 18 January and runs to the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. During this time, we join Christian churches and communities of all denominations to celebrate the faith we share in Christ – and to pray that we may be instruments of his great love throughout the world.

The theme for this year’s WPCU is: ‘You shall love the Lord your God… and your neighbour as yourself’.  It focuses on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and Jesus’ call to see all humanity as our neighbours. And it chimes perfectly with the Holy Father’s Prayer Intention in January for the gift of diversity within the Catholic Church, and the wider Christian community.

Living examples of faith

The prayer materials for 2024 were prepared by an ecumenical team from Burkina Faso. Members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, along with Protestant and other ecumenical representatives joined the Chemin Neuf Community to write the prayers and reflections for the WPCU.

This minority Christian community has first hand experience of difficult interfaith relationships. As Monsignor Juan Usma Gomez, the Western Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, recently explained:

‘Burkina Faso is going through a most difficult situation of persecution, violence, and inter-religious situations that are quite complicated.’

But, he added,

‘Perhaps the most important thing is that a persecuted minority Community is inviting us to pray for love, loving our neighbours, loving all those who are near to us, inspiring the Good Samaritan passage.’

You can find the resources from the Burkina Faso community here>>

The Good Samaritan’s message

Catholic dioceses across England and Wales are calling the faithful to the global week of prayer. Salford Diocese’s website notes:

‘The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best known passages of Scripture, yet one that never seems to lose its power to challenge indifference to suffering and to inspire solidarity. It is a story about crossing boundaries that calls our attention to the bonds that unite the whole human family.

The main focus of the week is to come together in collective self-reflection and to think about what it truly means to love our neighbour.’

Get involved

The Catholic Church has been taking part in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for over 50 years.

Now more than ever, the world needs us all to come together in unity and share a message of love and inclusion to all of our neighbours around the world. Here are some suggestions of ways to get involved:

‘All together, we must help. Love for our neighbour. This is ecumenism. This is already Unity. Unity in journeying with Jesus.’

– Pope Francis

Information for this article was adapted, with thanks, from Christopher Wells’ article Love of God and neighbour at heart of Week of Prayer on vaticannews.va.