By Linda Bordoni
Leaders of Christian communities throughout the world gather each year in the Vatican for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Francis traditionally concludes the initiative presiding over Vespers at the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls.
The theme for 2020, chosen and prepared by a group of representatives from the Christian Churches in Malta, is from the Acts of the Apostles: “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness”.
The working texts were finalized during a meeting of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the International Committee of the Faith and the Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
Archbishop Ian Ernest, director of the Anglican Center in Rome and personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See, spoke to Vatican Radio about the poignant relevance of the chosen theme.
“It is indeed relevant to pray that we Christians may act – as the themes says - with "unusual kindness", when it comes to those, who because of the realities and the harshness of life where they are, arrive on our shores,” he said.
Prayer and action
The Archbishop expressed his belief that it is very important that Christians, “not only pray together, but act together so that we can set the example before the world of a loving community that welcomes foreigners, cares for them and that gives them the dignity to which they are entitled as human beings.”
He goes on to reflect on the need for concrete ecumenical action in order to help change a perspective and narrative which sees migrants and refugees as strangers rather than as our brothers and sisters in need.
Archbishop Ernest recalls that before his death, Jesus prayed that we all One, “because the Father and He are one, and this is a mandate He gave us, that we be together, to witness together to His love.
Therefore, it is particularly important, he said, that “in times of hardship, in times of persecution, in times where people have no place to go, that we welcome them.”
“We have a God who has come down to us to welcome us where we are, and it is important - and I am glad – that today Christians are able to see each other, to pray with each other. And it is not only to pray with each other that is important, but what do we do from there?” he asked.
Ernest expressed his appreciation for the fact that we have Church leaders, like Pope Francis, who “are truly at the forefront of that struggle of going to the other, taking the hand of the other...”
So, he said, this theme is really appropriate because there should be a new way of life, a transformational way that we can bring about in the world in which we live.
Noting that he is new on the job (he has been in Rome only for 3 months), Archbishop Ernest said that while this year he will be participating in various events and initiatives, he is hopeful and confident that next year the Anglican Center in Rome will be able to open its own doors for some significant events.
Archbishop Ernest concluded with an appeal to all those who profess to be Christians to act with ‘unusual kindness’ as it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, noting that “if there is ‘unusual kindness’, there will be great hope for a change of mindset in the world in which we live.