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Bishop: Christians of all traditions can be models of unity in divisive time

To kick off the week, celebrated Jan. 18-25, Bishop Bambera participated Jan. 17 in an “Evening Prayer Service for Christian Unity” at Washington’s Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. It included a joint ceremony with James Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches, which represents congregations from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, evangelical, historic African-American and Living Peace traditions.

Together, members of various Christian faith traditions sang hymns, prayed and voiced common concerns.

Winkler mentioned how across the years, faith leaders have faced down evil, including war and Nazism, and joined together to support the country’s civil rights movement. More recently, faith leaders have expressed concerns for church leaders and their members in Cuba, Korea and Palestine so that American Christians will mobilize and “change our nation’s policies away from cruelty and confrontation and toward justice and peace,” Winkler said.

He added that later this year many people of faith will gather in Washington for a march to end racism, which will include many Catholic groups, such as the Franciscan Action Network and in which members of the Catholic bishops’ conference also have expressed interest in participating, he said.

“If we can have black churches and white churches, Jews and gentiles, Catholics and Protestants standing on the National Mall in an effort to end racism, we’ve begun to move forward,” Winkler said. “The ecumenical movement embodied in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has helped us get to this point and I thank God for that.”

The week always begins on the feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome (Jan. 18) and ends on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25).

Father James Gardiner, of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, who organized the evening prayer service in Washington, said although the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity doesn’t draw the large numbers it did in the past, “it echoes the high priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, ‘that all may be one.’ ”

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