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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
observed this January 18 - 25

New York, January 14, 2010 -- The international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity -- actually an "octave" of eight days -- is observed each year from January 18 to 25.

This year's theme, "You Are Witnesses of These Things" from Luke 24:48, was selected in part to commemorate the witness of the 1910 Edinburgh Mission Conference that historians name as the birth date and place of the modern ecumenical movement.

The theme comes from churches in Scotland that have been preparing to celebrate the centenary of the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, which has the theme, "Witnessing to Christ today".

The focus is on the church's call to mission, the same mission Christ gave his disciples. The Church is the community of those who have been reconciled with God and in God, and who can now witness together to the Gospel of salvation in unity that respects diversity. Such is the ideal set before the Christian churches in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity theme for 2010 so that the world may believe.

The theme has also been selected to highlight the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service November 9-11, 2010, in New Orleans. Sub-titled, "Ecumenical Engagement in a New Era," the meeting will look back over a century of ecumenical milestones.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity -- or the Church Unity Octave -- was first observed in January 1908, according to the Rev. Timothy MacDonald, SA, Associate Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute

"Celebrated in the chapel of a small Atonement Franciscan Convent of the Protestant Episcopal Church, on a remote hillside fifty miles from New York City," Father MacDonald writes, "this new prayer movement caught the imagination of others beyond the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement to become an energetic movement that gradually blossomed into a worldwide observance involving many nations and millions of people."

The observation is sponsored by the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

In the U.S., materials for the celebration of the Week of Prayer are the work of Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute in collaboration with the Commission on Faith & Order of the National Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Bishops' Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

For additional information on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as well as a list of observations throughout the year when Christian Unity will be celebrated, see Graymoor's Web page.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) ,

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