Each year, when the sad date of the Roe vs. Wade decision (January 22) is observed, Christians are in the midst of also observing the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25). This Providential convergence teaches us something both about the pro-life cause and about Christian unity.
In regard to the pro-life cause, it brings to mind Pope John Paul II's words in The Gospel of Life:
“Service of the Gospel of life is thus an immense and complex task. This service increasingly appears as a valuable and fruitful area for positive cooperation with our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities, in accordance with the practical ecumenism which the Second Vatican Council authoritatively encouraged. It also appears as a providential area for dialogue and joint efforts with the followers of other religions and with all people of good will. No single person or group has a monopoly on the defense and promotion of life. These are everyone's task and responsibility. … [O]nly the concerted efforts of all those who believe in the value of life can prevent a setback of unforeseeable consequences for civilization.” – (March 25, 1995, EV, #91)
The convergence of these dates also reminds us that efforts at authentic Christian unity are not limited to the important dialogues that take place, but also include carrying out the Christian mission side by side. In this regard, exactly two months after issuing The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II issued Ut Unum Sint, his encyclical on Christian Unity, in which he writes:
“Many Christians from all Communities, by reason of their faith, are jointly involved in bold projects aimed at changing the world by inculcating respect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the poor, the lowly, and the defenseless…Christians who once acted independently are now engaged together in the service of this cause, so that God’s mercy may triumph” (May 25, 1995, "Ut Unum Sint," n. 43).
This year, on January 25, the day that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes, the Pope will preside at an interdenominational service in Rome as an official event of the Year of Faith. On that very same day, Christians will march together in the streets of Washington DC for the annual March for Life. On that morning, I will preach at the interdenominational National Prayer Service that will mark this occasion. It will be held in DAR Constitution Hall from 8:30 to 10:30 am. (See NationalPrayerService.com.) We will have leaders and representatives from denominations across the entire spectrum of Christianity. Then later in the afternoon, men and women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign -- an interdenominational effort -- will give public testimony at the steps of the Supreme Court to their experience of the pain of abortion and the healing that comes in Jesus Christ.
This joint worship, action, and witness is what Christian Unity is all about, and it is at the heart of being Catholic.