An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This observance began on St. Peter's Day, June 29, 1900, when Spencer Jones, a Church of England priest, preached a sermon on closer relations with the Church of Rome. Jones urged that sermons be preached on St. Peter's Day emphasizing Rome as the center of unity. Paul James Wattson, an Episcopal priest, suggested that the Octave from the Feast of St. Peter's Chair (Jan. 18) to the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25) be a time of prayer for Christian unity on a papal basis. Church Unity Week was first observed in 1908, and later the name was changed to the Church Unity Octave by Wattson. In the 1930s, it was suggested by Abbé Paul Couturier, a Roman Catholic priest in France, that the basis for prayer be broadened to include all who desired unity in Jesus Christ, without reference to the Pope. Also in the 1930s, Wattson changed the name to the Chair of Unity Octave. Since 1966 the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity have worked together on common international texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. See Wattson, Paul James Francis.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.