Archimandrite Paul Irénée Couturier lived from 1881 to 1953. He was a French priest and worker for Christian Unity. He was educated at Lyons,ordained priest in 1906 and, after spending three years studying science, he joined the staff of the Institut des Chartreux at Lyon where he remained until 1951.

During the 1920s he came in touch with the Russian refugees in the area and learned much of their spiritual background. In 1932 when he was staying at the Priory of Amay-sur-Meuse (which moved to Chevetogne in 1936) an introduction to the work of Cardinal Mercier aroused his interest in the ecumenical movement. The following year he introduced a Triduum (or three days of prayer) for Christian Unity at Lyon, followed in 1934 by an Octave of Prayer from 18th to 25th January - from the feast of St Peter's Chair at Rome to the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. This was a development of the Church Unity Octave founded by two Anglicans in 1908, but from the first prayer was specifically offered for the unity of all baptised Christians "according to Christ's will, according to his means". Orthodox and other religious bodies as well as Anglicans were included. From 1939 the Octave was observed as the "Week of Universal Prayer". He also arranged interdenominational meetings at the monastery of La Trappe des Dombes and at Présinge. He engaged in a vast correspondence in connection with his ecumenical work, produced and distributed innumerable tracts on prayer for unity and was in close touch with the early leaders of the World Council of Churches.

In 1952 he was given the title of honorary Archimandrite by the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Maximus IV.

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The Cathedral of St John, Primatial Church of the Gauls, scene of the first Week of Prayer in 1934