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Archbishop, Orthodox prelate to pray vespers for peace, unity

January 16, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Gerasimos and San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone will celebrate solemn vespers on Jan. 18 to pray for those suffering persecution for their faith and to begin together the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Archbishop Cordileone will preside and Metropolitan Gerasimos will deliver the homily at the vespers service at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Belmont. In April, the archbishop and metropolitan celebrated the Service of Salutations to the Holy Cross at the Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross. At the April 8 service, Archbishop Cordileone preached and Metropolitan Gerasimos presided.

The Belmont Orthodox church possesses a relic of the true cross and for nine years has invited Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Lenten service, IHM pastor Father Steve Howell said. Last year was the first time Archbishop Cordileone and Metropolitan Gerasimos were involved, partly to pray for an upcoming May 2014 meeting between the heads of both churches in Jerusalem.

“We are continuing a long-standing tradition of praying together,” Father Howell said, part of a history of cooperation and friendship between the two parishes. “This is an opportunity to pray together and share together.”

The Greek Orthodox and the Catholic Church recognize each other’s sacraments and at the April 8 service those present prayed the Greek Orthodox version of the Nicene Creed.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an international and ecumenical faith practice sponsored by The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and The Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. It was first promoted by a one-time Episcopal priest, Father Paul Wattson who joined the Catholic Church more than a century ago along with the members of the Society of the Atonement, which he co-founded. The U.S. bishops voted Nov. 11 at their annual fall general assembly in Baltimore to approve forwarding his cause for sainthood.

Father Wattson, whose father was himself an Episcopal priest, was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1886, according to Auxiliary Bishop John J. O’Hara of New York, in remarks to the bishops prior to the vote. The Society of the Atonement, made up of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, has its headquarters in Graymoor, New York, which is in the New York archdiocese. Father Wattson saw the need for both a Franciscan spirituality in the Episcopal Church and a way to serve the poor, Bishop O’Hara said.

A third need arose before the end of the 19th century: “Repair the breach in a divided church,” Bishop O’Hara said. In 1903, Father Wattson started the Church Unity Octave. Now more commonly known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, it “continues to this day,” Bishop O’Hara said. The week is observed each January.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

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