European Church leaders issue joint message for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco,  Rt Rev Christopher Hill

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Rt Rev Christopher Hill

The Presidents of the Council of European Bishops' Conference and the Conference of European Churches has sent out this message for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14)! Great truth is contained in this short verse from Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians that inspired this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The history of Christianity in Europe is marked by sorrowful periods of division, mutual condemnation, and even violence. As a number of churches prepare to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, we are reminded anew of our difficult past. Recalling these events and confronting our history is a precious opportunity to renew our commitment to the healing of wounds and overcoming divisions. We turn to Christ, who reconciles all people and all creation to God, to guide us in this work. In humble gratitude for this gift, we work for reconciliation through both word and deed.

Today we must also celebrate how we have grown in learning to work together and cultivating meaningful theological dialogue. The Council of European Bishops' Conference and the Conference of European Churches have enjoyed 45 years of collaboration through its Joint Committee, and on other issues of common concern. Also the shared suffering and joy of the world brings us together. Our solidarity with Roma people, our commitment to ecological justice, and prayers for unity within the Body of Christ is strengthened through this relationship.

The multiple crises facing Europe and its neighbours bind us still more closely together. War and conflict, political uncertainty, migration and ecological challenges, material and spiritual poverty touch all lives in Europe and beyond. Along with these crises comes hope. Together we can bear witness to the reconciling love of Christ through the safeguarding of Creation, solidarity with the poor, and protecting the dignity of all God's people.

Through dialogue we will deepen our understanding of one another. Through common witness and action we will build bridges. Through prayer we will learn to recognise the Holy Spirit at work. The way forward can not always be clear or easy, but we always recall in our heart the truth that "the love of Christ compels us."