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Communion of Christians.

These days it's not even on the Catholic radar screen, which is particularly ironic since this year was proclaimed the Year of the Eucharist by the late Pope John Paul II. Still, in most Catholic places on October 2, World Communion Sunday will go uncelebrated.

World Communion Sunday has its origin in the mid-1930s in the precincts of the United States' Presbyterian Church and was envisioned as an interdenominational event. At a time when major powers in the world were heading toward the Second World War, this celebration emphasized unity and peace rather than fragmentation and violence. Too bad the world missed this message then as much as it misses it now.

Many Christian denominations, though, have embraced World Communion Sunday and celebrate it annually the first Sunday in October. One Baptist minister reflected the ecumenical spirit of World Communion Sunday in his sermon: "On this Sunday we are reminded that Christ has called us to a table that is universal, that encompasses all the diversities of this world, a table that sees difference as a gift, not a burden."

For Catholics the Year of the Eucharist was first announced by John Paul II in 2004 on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. The Year began at the World Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico in October 2004 and will conclude this October at the Synod of Bishops meeting in Vatican City.

John Paul II reflected on the spirit of the Year of the Eucharist in his apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine: "At each holy Mass we are called to measure ourselves against the ideal of communion which the Acts of the Apostles paints as a model for the church in every age. It is the church gathered around the apostles, called by the Word of God, capable of sharing in spiritual goods but in material goods as well. In this Year of the Eucharist the Lord invites us to draw as closely as possible to this ideal."

A few years ago in the little town of Kutztown, Pennsylvania--population 5,000--one celebration of World Communion Sunday reflected an embrace of peace and unity that transcended Christianity and became an interfaith experience. Two Muslim women, refugees from war-torn Kosovo who had been aided by the people of St. John's United Church of Christ, baked the eucharistic bread for use on World Communion Sunday. These women, saved from a savage war, appreciated the faith and vision of these Christians and, although not Christian themselves, found a faithful way to participate in World Communion Sunday.

So listen carefully in the church of your choice on Sunday, October 2. Will your church stand in solidarity with the celebration of World Communion Sunday? If so, consider yourself fortunate to be attending a church explicitly attuned to ecumenical and interfaith consciousness.

If not, there is nothing to stop individual Catholics from participating in World Communion Sunday by receiving the Eucharist on that day and praying for the transdenominational hope of unity and peace.

Catholic participation in World Communion Sunday would be a fitting end to the Year of the Eucharist.

See you in church.

PETER GILMOUR ( teaches at the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University Chicago.
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Title Annotation:Odds & Ends; World Communion Sunday
Author:Gilmour, Peter
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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