The last highlighted paragraph will probably be of immediate interest to most.
June 3, 2012 (Chicago Tribune) - About a dozen religious leaders gathered with Cardinal Francis George on the steps of St. Hedwig Catholic Church on Sunday evening to pose for a picture that could symbolize the goal they had come to promote: Christian unity.
The clergy and about 150 congregants came to the Polish parish for Chicago's 12th annual ecumenical prayer service for Christian unity. It was organized by Ecumenism Metro Chicago, a coalition of Christian communities, in an effort to deepen relationships among members of varying Christian traditions.
"Jesus said if we are not one, the world will not believe," said George, who has previously talked about the need for the Roman Catholic Church to work with other denominations. "We have an obligation to be a united witness."
The challenges to unity among Christian faith traditions are their differing perspectives on religious doctrine and discipleship, George said. Questions of sexual morality and social justice also continue to divide Christians, he said.
Sunday's service was a continuation of the worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that usually takes place in January.
At St. Hedwig, about 100 people from Roman Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant denominations gathered for a mixer in which they talked in small groups about what made their religious experiences different, their relationship with other Christian traditions and the necessity for of interfaith dialogue.
Denise Renken, 59, who is Catholic, said divisions among Christian denominations are fading.
"I have found the parishes are a little more welcoming now. Before, if someone new walked in, it was like you don't belong here," Renken said. "To me, the Roman Catholic faith is what I believe in, (but) I have no problem with someone believing in something else."
John Sandors, 73, who is Greek Orthodox, said Christian unity doesn't have to come at the expense of pride in individual Christian traditions. "If you don't praise your own house, it will fall down," he said. "You should be proud of who you are."
Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, who also is Greek Orthodox, gave the homily at the service. He said that while diversity is healthy for the Christian faith, Christians are called to love one another regardless of their differences.
"This love for one another is often difficult," he said "(But) it's possible because God first loved us."
The bishop added that churches should allow God's "transformative" power to heal divisions among various Christian factions.
"If we are open to being moved by the spirit ... our lives with one another will change and change for the better."
The Rev. Amos Oladipo, who is Methodist, said the fact that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated the same week asMartin Luther King Jr. Dayis fitting. "It reminds us to promote reconciliation among races as well as churches," he said.
Toward the end of the service, the attendees exchanged edible wafers as a symbolic gesture of unity. Then, the clergy in robes as colorful and as different as their religious traditions led the congregants out of the church.
"This is a start. It's all of us working together toward unity," said Michael Terrien, who works for the Archdiocese of Chicago and helped organize the event. "That's what's happening now, and we can continue that."