The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has an interesting feel in the heart of Roman
Catholicism. The week begins with an ecumenical vespers service on Friday evening
presided over by Pope Francis. The Papal Vespers were held this year at the very large and very old St. Paul’s Outside the Walls (we and they are named for our location relative to the old Aurelian walls of the city). I was honored to be present. There was the expected procession of red, which dwarfed the non-Catholic guests of honor. The pope preached. He looked and sounded tired. Maybe a little bit like 2 Timothy 4.
St. Paul’s is part of a group of primarily (but not exclusively) English-speaking and primarily (but not exclusively) Protestant churches called Churches Together in Rome. Our CTiR-sponsored event took place two days later on a rainy, cold Sunday evening. Much, much smaller, and also looking and sounding tired. We discussed the reason for the low attendance at the next monthly CTiR ministers’ meeting. Part of the challenge was undoubtedly the weather, and asking our far-flung parishioners to make a second trek into a center-city location while they preferred to remain with home and hearth the night before a workday.
I think the challenges are deeper than this too. Our CTiR churches – Swedish and German Lutheran, Scottish Presbyterian, English and Italian Methodist, Church of England, Episcopal, American and Irish Roman Catholic et al. – bear witness to wonderful expressions of the Gospel mediated by a diverse flourishing of reason and tradition. Perhaps, though, we put so much energy into holding together our own, often small communities that we just don’t have much time or energy left over to celebrate and grow in our catholicity. Of course, this was one year in one place. The ecumenical conversation in our age is so much bigger, but it’s just a blog post….What are your thoughts?