Accompany Prayer for Christian Unity with “concrete gestures”: Catholic Archbishop in Togo

Archbishop Nicodème Anani Barrigah-Benissan of Togo's Lomé Archdiocese. Credit: Archdiocese of Lomé

A Catholic Archbishop in Togo has called on followers of Christ to use the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity not only to pray for unity but also to accompany the initiative with concrete gestures of love for one another.

Addressing the faithful Tuesday, January 18 during Holy Mass marking the start of the annual prayer initiative, Archbishop Nicodème Anani Barrigah-Benissan said, “Our week of prayer must not stop at the Church. It must come down to our homes, our workplaces and everywhere we live.”

“That is why the Church strongly recommends that after the prayer for unity, there should also be concrete gestures of love to accompany it,” Archbishop Barrigah-Benissan said.

The Archbishop of Togo’s Lomé Archdiocese added, “We all know that it is easier to pray for unity than to live in unity. We all know that it is easier to recite the Lord's Prayer together than to eat together with someone who belongs to a different Christian denomination.”

“That is why it would be very meaningful for each of us, during this week, to make some gestures that are the transcription of our prayer in the daily life of our community,” the Togolese Archbishop said.


As an example, Archbishop Barrigah-Benissan said, “A brother who is of another Christian denomination can go and visit someone who is of another Christian faith and share a moment together.”

Traditionally commemorated annually from January 18-25, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an ecumenical Christian observance organized by World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to pray for unity among Christians.

This year’s commemoration has been organized under the theme, “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him. (Matthew 2:2).”

Reflecting on this year’s theme, Archbishop Barrigah-Benissan said, “The story of the Magi first of all, shows that all peoples are looking for a star. All of us experience evil in our personal and social lives. We are all looking for a light, looking for a solution, looking for salvation. And in this search, God gives us his son Jesus who comes to save us.”

“That is why we, Christians who have welcomed Christ, must become a star for others so that all those who are looking for a solution, in search of salvation can find through us a path that leads to God,” the local Ordinary of Lomé added.

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He however bemoaned the fact that that the situation of the unity among followers of Jesus Christ is “distressing and scandalous as Christians are still divided.”

“How can we bear witness to unity if we ourselves are divided?” he posed and continued, “This week is therefore first of all a call to become aware of this division.”

The story of the Magi, the Togolese Archbishop further said, “shows us the diversity of those who came to worship Christ, each with the specificity of their culture and origin.”

“So, it is in Church; all peoples, whatever their origin, whatever their diversity, are called to walk towards Christ. There are no people superior to another; there are no people that have nothing to offer to God,” he said, and explained, “This means that in the diversity that characterizes the followers of Christ, there is a renewed call to unity. It is together, in the diversity of peoples and cultures, that we go towards Christ.”

The Archbishop who has been at the helm of Lomé Archdiocese since January 2020 further said, “All peoples have something specific to give to the Church and that all the expressions that characterize the Christian denominations are an enrichment for the Church.”


In his January 18 homily, Archbishop Barrigah-Benissan also highlighted the meaning and importance of ecumenism.

“Ecumenism is not the eradication of our differences and traditions. Ecumenism does not mean that the Catholic religion no longer exists and that the various Christian denominations, Protestants, Evangelicals, etc., no longer exist, Pentecostals no longer exist. No, it simply means that beyond these denominations, there is something that unites us, that is Christ,” the 58-year-old Archbishop explained.

He added, “Ecumenism is the recognition of diversity that goes to meet Christ. It is the recognition of diversity that starts from Christ and brings light to the world.”

“May the Lord convert our hearts, so that we may see in those who practice their Christian faith in another way as brothers and sisters rather than adversaries,” Archbishop Barrigah-Benissan implored in his January 18 homily.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.