Week of Unity in Jerusalem: Christians as satellites around the only sun that is Christ

The week (20-28 January) is currently underway in the Holy Land with Church members gathering at a different venue each day. Each Church members of other Churches to participate. Bridges are built “in truth."


Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – "At the Holy Sepulchre one realises that one is not the sun, but that the Risen Christ is, and we are satellites that, together with our fellow human beings, go around the same grave," said Brother Stéphane Milovitch, of the diocesan Commission for Ecumenism, as he talked about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (20-28 January), currently underway in Jerusalem.

For the past 25 years, he has taken part in the event, which is held in the holy city later than the rest of the world, to allow the Armenian and Greek communities to celebrate Christmas and Epiphany respectively according to their own calendar.

On this occasion, members of various Jerusalem Churches meet each day at a different venue. "Thursday will be at the Upper Room, the place where the Church was born, and therefore where all the Churches were born", Br Milovitch said.

"Everyone prepares something and invites others, it is a para-liturgy, to which we are all invited, as participants, not only as spectators. Thus, for example, at the Anglican church, a Coptic can read the Gospel and a Syriac can read a biblical passage.”

For Brother Milovitch, it is important to stress that living together in Jerusalem is a daily experience for the Churches.

"There are various Churches in the Holy Land, more than in many cities of the world. At the Holy Sepulchre, six communities meet daily. Pilgrims can be a little shocked to see Franciscans, Greeks, Armenians [together]. This might appear as [a form of] division, but for me it is not like that. It (the Sepulchre) is a place where we are all gathered together. If we were alone it would be more harmonious, but something would be missing."

"I like to think that the Church is born in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and moves into the world around, as a map from 1500 shows (pictured). There are three continents around Jerusalem: Asia, Africa, Europe. All these cultures received the baptism, through which they are united, even though each prays in accordance with their own rituals and traditions."

These continents meet at the Holy Sepulchre “with its six communities: two African (Ethiopians and Copts), two Asian (Armenian and Syriac), and two European (Latin and Byzantine)". Sometimes they go around the aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre together. At that moment they are "all satellites of a single sun which is the risen Christ".

During the Week of Christian Unity and on each day, "everyone has their own liturgy, expresses their own culture. If I have to build a bridge with another, I do not have to pretend to be like him: I am what I am and you are what you are. This is how bridges are built: in truth."

The Week is not the only occasion for ecumenism. "For the feast day of Saint Anthony, patron of the Custos, all non-Catholic communities are present in the Church of St Saviour and the refectory."

"Ecumenism is not just praying together; it is having human relationships. It is not easy. It is hard when one has to speak Arabic with an Armenian – since he speaks Armenian and I speak French – but there is nothing scandalous about it. We do not meet in perfection. Yet this ecumenism has been going on for years thanks to people of good will, children of the same Father and brothers of Christ himself."

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