Madagascar: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Toamasina.
Stanislas Kambashi,SJ - Vatican City
Madagascar’s Father Pâques Adoré Lebamisaina is the Administrator of the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Joseph in the city of Toamasina. It is situated on the eastern coast of Madagascar and is about 360 Kilometres from the capital Antananarivo. Apart from leading the ecumenical ministry in the diocese, Father Pâques Adoré also doubles as Director of the Diocesan Radio.
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Archdiocese of Toamasina leads and participates in ecumenical events in the eastern Indian ocean city.
What is the Week of Prayer for Christian unity?
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an ecumenical Christian observance in the Christian calendar celebrated internationally. Essentially the week focuses on prayer for Christian Unity. Christians around the world are invited to pray for the unity of all Christians, reflect on scripture together, participate in jointly-organised ecumenical services, and share fellowship.
Pope Francis will close the worldwide celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on 25 January with Evening Prayer at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
Prayers and shared hospitality in Toamasina
According to Father Pâques Adoré, the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches in Toamasina have cultivated and forged significant collaboration over the past four years, particularly at the level of its leaders.
For 2022, shared prayers and symbolic events have been jointly organised by Catholics and Churches of the Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches of Madagascar, based in Toamasina and surrounding areas. Some of these Churches include the Anglican and Lutheran churches. After every prayer service, the host invites visitors to light refreshments and fellowship.
Local government authorities have also been invited to the ecumenical events. In the weeks leading to the Week of Prayer, various churches have been raising awareness through the media and inviting Christians to attend the prayers.
Ecumenism, a path illuminated by the light of God
We have seen his star in the East, and we have come to adore him is the theme chosen for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. For Father Pâques Adoré, this theme is particularly significant for ecumenism in Madagascar because “almost 30% of Malagasy people practise traditional religions and many Christians live in a situation of syncretism. Therefore, the star is for the people of Toamasina a sign of hope that leads to the light who is Christ,” he explained.
Answering the question regarding some Catholic priests and parishioners who shun ecumenical events, Father Pâques Adorés reminds them that ecumenical prayer is constitutive of the Christian life. “For us Catholics, ecumenism is not an option but an obligation,” said the Malagasy priest.
He added that the Archbishop of Toamasina, Désiré Cardinal Tsarahazana, has been at the forefront, encouraging the Catholic faithful to participate in Week of Prayer for Christian Unity events. It is the right thing to do, emphasised Father Pâques Adorés.