Archbishop Angelito Lampon, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Ecumenical Affairs of the country’s Catholic bishops, reminded the faithful that “ecumenism” is “not just a gift but a responsibility.”
For Catholics, “ecumenism,” from the Greek word “oikoumene,” is the promotion of cooperation and unity among Christians.
“While unity is a gift from God, it is also a task and responsibility that we have to work hard in order to achieve it,” said Bishop Lampon in a video message for the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The archbishop of Cotabato in Mindanao said unity can be done by “our coming together, respecting each other’s beliefs, and rejoicing in our diversity.”
“We are already making a huge statement to the world that unity is possible not only among Christians but also for humanity,” he added.
The theme for the celebration this year, which started on Monday, January 18, was taken from the Gospel of St. John: “Abide in my love… you shall bear much fruit”.
Archbishop Charles John Brown, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, expressed his wish that the initiative, which has been going on for 27 years now, may bear fruits and collaboration.
He lauded efforts to observe the annual celebration “to pray together, to beseech, to entreat the Lord for the gift of unity.”
Archbishop Brown said this year’s theme highlights the need for people to come together because “with Him all things are possible, without Him nothing is possible.”
“Ecumenism is a gift from God, a gift that becomes possible through prayer,” said the prelate.
Faith leaders in the Philippines has earlier voiced calls on Christian Churches to foster unity for the benefit of the poor and vulnerable “amidst injustices and the pandemic.”
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said unity is needed “all the more in this time” when “there are so many people in need.”
He said Christian churches need not just pray for unity but to “put our resources together” to help the poor.
“We should have a common voice to make [COVID-19] vaccines available to the poor and vulnerable,” said the Catholic prelate.
He also called on various faith groups “to have one voice to prevent government abuse of power,” citing proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution and the so-called red-tagging of activists.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally observed every year from January 18 to 25. In some places, the observance falls during Pentecost.
The tradition has become an opportunity for different Christian denominations around the world to jointly pray for Christian unity and move closer towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ Last Supper prayer “that they all may be one.”
This year’s observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is being held online due to mass gathering restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.