Wednesday 29 January 2003

Paul Couturier Anniversary Year 2003

24th March 2003 marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the death of the Abbé Paul Couturier, the visionary priest from Lyon who was the great advocate of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Not a member of the official hierarchy, nor an academic, his life's work to pray and work for the unity of all Christians according to the mind of Christ was achieved through strong bonds of friendship across cultural, national and ecclesiastical divides. These influences on the life of many upon and beyond his own Roman Catholic world resonate to this day, and include the ecumenical community at Taizé in France, the joint eastern-western monastery at Chevetogne in Belgium, the Orthodox whom he first encountered as refugees from Russia, the Reformed Churches, and from the 1930s his interest in the Anglican Communion.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fourvière,
an ancient pilgrimage site crowning the city of Lyon,
where the Abbé went to say his first mass
after release from the Gestapo prison

Perhaps it is not unfair to say that the huge commitment to ecumenism at the Second Vatican Council, and the commitment of church leaders and theologians to build church unity in the late 20th century, owe much to Paul Couturier's life of prayer and devotion to the mutual gifts of Christian friendships.

His work is still continued by the Centre Unité Chrétienne in Lyon. The network of friendships, joint projects, international links, and ecumenical bonds between churches and countries has continued to grow. Throughout 2003 it was possible to celebrate the Abbé's memory with events and publications, and so ensure that, even when official progress may be slow and painstaking, the close contacts among ordinary Christians continue to drive forward the cause of Unity.

'Heart speaks to heart' (St Augustine).
'That they all may be one'.
Cor ad cor loquitur.

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