While the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022 is celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere from 18th-25th January, it also takes place elsewhere in the world at different times. Here is the story of an ecumenical project, “Virtual Visits to Christian Communities”, which started a year ago in Mexico to promote unity between the different Churches.
“Mexico is a country with a Catholic majority. Through living the spirituality of unity, we have discovered a yearning for Christian unity and for several years we have been building beautiful ecumenical relations”.
These are the words of Dolores Lonngi, wife of Pablo, both volunteers in the Focolare Movement who have been looking after the ecumenical dialogue of the Movement in Mexico for years. Together with their daughter Ursula, a focolarina, last February, they launched the project “Virtual visits to Christian communities” with the aim of extending ecumenism beyond the ‘Week of Prayer for Unity’ and starting a journey of fraternity and communion of experiences.
From the beginning, the objectives of this project were getting to know how each tradition lives and expresses its faith in the society in which it is immersed and identifying ways to collaborate for the good of the whole of society.
Ursula, how did these virtual visits take place and where did you start from?
“To carry out the project, we set up a Central Commission, made up of the Ecumenical Officer for the Anglican Church of Mexico and President of the Country’s Interreligious Council, the Secretary of the Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue Commission of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, a teacher of “Ecumenical Theology” at the Pontifical University of Mexico and one of Ecumenism at the Anahuac University of the city of Querétaro, a priest of the Confraternity of Ecumenical Missionaries and ourselves.
The first visit was to the Anglican Church and then we moved on to the Eastern Catholic Churches. They all shared real “pearls” with us: history, ministries, the witness of faith and charity of young people and adults. There were various Anglican priests and the Anglican Bishop Emeritus of Uruguay, Mgr. Miguel Tamayo, who spoke of the meetings of Bishops of various Churches promoted by the Focolare Movement. In each of our “virtual visits” we had a moment of dialogue in small groups, which gave us the opportunity to get to know each other better and to build friendships with people from different Churches “.
Pablo, what were the highlights and what kind of turnout was there?
“In the program of the year there was a moment of prayer on the occasion of Pentecost (the period in which in the southern hemisphere we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) and another seven Virtual Visits to different Churches, the last Thursday of each month, as well as an ecumenical festival of biblical readings and songs at the beginning of Advent. In order to disseminate the initiative on social media and with the aim of generating an ecumenical community, we opened WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook channels, which in the first months of the project reached more than 10,500 people from Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, USA, as well as several cities of Mexico.
Dolores, what’s your impression of this experience?
“We were surprised by the great response that this initiative had and we are happy to have contributed in our small way to the growth of the spirit of unity in and among our Churches. We realize that in this way we can realize what the Second Vatican Council already proposed in n.5 of the Unitatis Redintegratio: “The attainment of union is the concern of the whole Church, faithful and shepherds alike. This concern extends to everyone, according to his talent, whether it be exercised in his daily Christian life or in his theological and historical research. This concern itself reveals already to some extent the bond of brotherhood between all Christians and it helps toward that full and perfect unity which God in His kindness wills”.
Maria Grazia Berretta