“Their Blood is Mixed”: A Reflection for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Jan 21st, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

We have a tradition at Called to Communion of observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This event, with over a century of history behind it, seeks to promote visible Christian unity through an octave of prayer. Its goal, like the goal of Called to Communion, is to pursue the fulfillment of Christ’s High Priestly prayer, “that they all may be one.” (John 17:21.) I regret that we are already at the mid-point of the Week with this first post, but nonetheless ask you to join us in prayer for Christian unity throughout the octave, which ends on January 25th.1

Christian Martyrs in Pakistan

The new Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis, has already made clear the strength of his interest in promoting visible Christian unity. During a Vatican Insider interview, when asked whether Christian unity was a priority for him, Pope Francis described an “ecumenism of blood” shared by all Christians:

Yes, for me ecumenism is a priority. Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians. We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for. I knew a parish priest in Hamburg who was dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by the Nazis for teaching children the catechism. After him, in the list of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had gone to the bishop and said to him: “I will continue to deal with the cause, but both of their causes, not just the Catholic priest’s.” This is what ecumenism of blood is. It still exists today; you just need to read the newspapers. Those who kill Christians don’t ask for your identity card to see which Church you were baptised in. We need to take these facts into consideration.2

These words offer a powerful reminder of what ought to be our strong fraternal bonds. We are willing to die for our faith, and to “lay down [our] life for [our] friends.” (John 15:13.) And as Christians, we are not merely friends, but brothers and sister in Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 2:11-12.) While for many of us, these realities are notional, many others today live in fear of (or experience) bloody persecution.3 These Christians participate in an ecumenism of blood, a consanguineous unity that pays no heed to ecclesial disunity.

In our prayers for Christian unity, we would do well to reflect on their sufferings, to place ourselves and our separated brothers and sisters there with them. We should call to mind that in terms of Christian persecution, we are all in the same trenches, standing shoulder to shoulder against a common threat. This way, we would more easily speak with charity, exercise patience, and put aside our prideful pursuit of “winning” a point against an interlocutor.

We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for.

Lord Jesus, we ask You for the gift of unity. Send us Your Spirit, that we may see what steps are necessary to obtain unity, and that we may have the courage and wisdom to take those steps. May Your time come quickly, and may we be instruments of Your will. Amen.

  1. More information about the 2014 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is available here. []
  2. Andrea Tornielli, “Never Be Afraid of Tenderness,” Vatican Insider (Dec. 14, 2013), available here. []
  3. For example, Christians in North Korea, India, or Pakistan. []
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  1. Great article Tom! In the vein of the importance of charitable ecumenical dialogue, the latest issue of First Things features an article on G.C. Berkouwer as an “accidental Protestant” who furthered ecumenical dialogue between the Reformed faith and Catholicism. Unfortunately, the entire article is only available at present for subscribers… – Casey

  2. Regarding the twenty-one Coptic Christians killed yesterday, Pope Francis said the following:

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