Pope to pray for Christian unity with head of World Council of Churches

 Pope Benedict XVI and Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), along with high-level representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC, will meet in Rome this Friday, 25 January, to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On Friday morning, the WCC general secretary will meet the Pope in a private audience along with members of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC. The group, a 'think tank' advising the parent bodies on areas of common concern, is holding its annual plenary meeting in Rome from 21-26 January. Pope Benedict XVI will preside at an ecumenical Vespers service at the Roman basilica of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls at 5.30pm that same day. During the service, Kobia will bring greetings on behalf of 347 churches constituting the WCC. The ecumenical service concludes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. 2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the week of prayer, which every year is celebrated by millions of Christians all over the world. An ecumenical award will be presented to the two bodies which, for 40 years have jointly prepared and promoted the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC. The Paul Wattson Christian Unity Award will be presented by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the PCPCU; Rev Dr John Gibaut, WCC director of Faith and Order; and his predecessor, Rev Dr Thomas F Best. The ceremony on Thursday afternoon includes a lecture by Kasper and an ecumenical service at which Gibaut will preach. The award takes its name from one of the initiators of the first Octave of Prayer for Church Unity held in January 1908 in Graymoor, New York, by the Society of the Atonement, a small Franciscan religious community.

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