(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches,
Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”,
focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a
meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the
path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations.
They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about
economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent
action on climate change.
The Geneva based World Council of Churches is a fellowship of 345 member churches from over 110 different countries. In his words to the general secretary Pope Francis thanked the organisation for its work over the past half century in “overcoming mutual misunderstanding” and promoting “sincere ecumenical cooperation”. If Christians ignore the call to unity which comes from the Lord, he said, “they risk ignoring the Lord himself.” Though the road to unity is still an uphill struggle, he said, the Spirit encourages us to move forward in trust.
Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Rev Fykse Tveit to find out more about their conversation and about their shared vision for the future of the ecumenical movement…..
“It was a very good conversation….I responded to what we understand is his vision of how the Church shall serve the needs of the world, sharing the Gospel, being together in doing this, but also how we shall address the issues of justice and peace in the world together…..I shared our vision as WCC and also my personal understanding and commitment to what it means to work for justice and peace as a Christian…..we recognize that we have, in many ways, the same perspectives but also the same spirit….
There is no doubt about his commitment to unity….what he said and what I said is that there are new opportunities for Christian unity today, particularly how we serve the world together and we should focus on how we can do that…..he was interested in particular issues I raised with him about the Middle East, about peace in Korea, our work for economic justice and for the environment….
[on Korean reconciliation]We are working on another meeting between participants from North and South Korea, to happen in Geneva before the summer…..I’m going to visit South Korea in April to discuss this…..it’s very important for us to see how the Churches can bring another vision on how things can change….the expectations from the Korean Churches are quite significant….
[on 10th Assembly in Busan] I think we realized we cannot divide the ecumenical movement into those who are evangelicals, those who are ecumenical, those who work for unity, those who work for mission, those who work for justice….it belongs together in a very strong way…and this was what we confirmed in the conversation today with his Holiness….
[on climate change] I referred to the call of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum in January this year when he called governments, the business sector and the civil sector – including religious leaders – to bring something new, to really make changes in how we give priority to the environment…..we believe it’s time to call other religious leaders to a summit, the day before the summit that Ban Ki-moon has called for heads of state in September in New York, and the Pope was apparently supporting this idea very strongly…”