At the 12th annual Ecumenical Prayer Service for Christian unity, organized by Ecumenism Metro Chicago, His Grace Bishop Demetrios spoke powerfully on the true nature of Christian unity as a response to the fundamental question posed by our Lord to his disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" The lamentable divisions which exist amongst Christians, though complex and varied, can be understood simply: "We do not all share the same answer (to the Lord's question) in a spirit of love," said His Grace. The authentic desire to heal all divisions cannot be "constructed," he said, but must rather be a response to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit working within us through our real participation in the resurrection and inheritors of the Kingdom of God. "And thus," His Grace said, that "if the Church is to be an icon of the Kingdom, a living image of the perfect Image of God with the Holy Spirit to the glory of our Father, then in our humility, in our openness to the Advocate and Counselor, the Holy Spirit will change us, and that which we have constructed to divide us will be scattered, and the truth will set us free so that we may be one…"
To read the complete text of His Grace's Homily, please click here.
By Naomi Nix, Chicago Tribune reporter
10:17 p.m. CDT, June 3, 2012
About a dozen religious leaders gathered with Cardinal Francis George on the steps of St. Hedwig Catholic Church on Sunday evening to pose for a picture that could symbolize the goal they had come to promote: Christian unity.
The clergy and about 150 congregants came to the Polish parish for Chicago's 12th annual ecumenical prayer service for Christian unity. It was organized by Ecumenism Metro Chicago, a coalition of Christian communities, in an effort to deepen relationships among members of varying Christian traditions.
"Jesus said if we are not one, the world will not believe," said George, who has previously talked about the need for the Roman Catholic Church to work with other denominations. "We have an obligation to be a united witness."
The challenges to unity among Christian faith traditions are their differing perspectives on religious doctrine and discipleship, George said. Questions of sexual morality and social justice also continue to divide Christians, he said.
Sunday's service was a continuation of the worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that usually takes place in January.
At St. Hedwig, about 100 people from Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant denominations gathered for a mixer in which they talked in small groups about what made their religious experiences different, their relationship with other Christian traditions and the necessity for of interfaith dialogue.
Denise Renken, 59, who is Catholic, said divisions among Christian denominations are fading.
"I have found the parishes are a little more welcoming now. Before, if someone new walked in, it was like you don't belong here," Renken said. "To me, the Roman Catholic faith is what I believe in, (but) I have no problem with someone believing in something else."
John Sandors, 73, who is Greek Orthodox, said Christian unity doesn't have to come at the expense of pride in individual Christian traditions. "If you don't praise your own house, it will fall down," he said. "You should be proud of who you are."
Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, who also is Greek Orthodox, gave the homily at the service. He said that while diversity is healthy for the Christian faith, Christians are called to love one another regardless of their differences.
"This love for one another is often difficult," he said "(But) it's possible because God first loved us."
The bishop added that churches should allow God's "transformative" power to heal divisions among various Christian factions.
"If we are open to being moved by the spirit ... our lives with one another will change and change for the better."
The Rev. Amos Oladipo, who is Methodist, said the fact that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated the same week asMartin Luther King Jr. Dayis fitting. "It reminds us to promote reconciliation among races as well as churches," he said.
Toward the end of the service, the attendees exchanged edible wafers as a symbolic gesture of unity. Then, the clergy in robes as colorful and as different as their religious traditions led the congregants out of the church.
"This is a start. It's all of us working together toward unity," said Michael Terrien, who works for the Archdiocese of Chicago and helped organize the event. "That's what's happening now, and we can continue that."