The Christian Churches in the Holy Land are often characterized as intractably, scandalously divided. The impression is not without reason, as evidenced by the embarrassing 2008 skirmishes between Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox monks in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre—the church recognized as the site of Calvary and Jesus’ empty tomb.
It would be wrong, however, to despair that the Christian community is resigned to disunity. Starting last year, Church leaders have called their faithful to raise up an Extraordinary Prayer of all Churches for Reconciliation, Unity and Peace. This year, the ecumenical liturgy was held in the Redeemer Lutheran Church, just steps from the Holy Sepulchre in the heart of the Old City.
Television viewers from around the world are encouraged to join this prayer, which organizers describe as:
A call for a profound personal conversion, for each participant to become a true instrument of Reconciliation, Unity and Peace, in the Church and in the world.
A fervent, intensive and unanimous call to the Mercy of the Lord by the whole Church – the earthly and the heavenly one – in a great intercessory prayer for our time, beginning in and with Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). The graces asked from God are in fact so great that the strength of the whole Church must be engaged.
Specifically, participants are interceding for peace in the Holy Land and for the unification of Easter celebrations, which denominations presently commemorate on different dates.
Along with Orthodox and Protestant leaders, the initiative is supported by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which oversees all Latin-rite Catholics in the Holy Land, and Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.
For the first time ever in North America, Salt + Light will broadcast the Extraordinary Prayer, along with a half-hour documentary about the historic Lutheran church in which the service is being held. While we post a preview of the event here, the prayer service will be televised on S+L with English translation this Saturday at 9 pm ET. You can follow the prayers and readings of the service with the online program.