By Susy Hodges
Evangelical Pastor Martin Robra, a senior official at the World Council of Churches (WCC), says Pope Francis’ visit to the WCC headquarters in Geneva demonstrates “the oneness of the ecumenical movement that the Catholic Church joined with the promulgation of the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio.” Robra, who is head of relations between the WCC and the Catholic Church, was speaking in an interview with the Italian Jesuit Magazine Civiltà Cattolica ahead of the papal visit to the WCC headquarters on June 21st.
A new (ecumenical) spring with Pope Francis and his initiatives
Noting that only a few years ago people were speaking of an “ecumenical winter” Pastor Robra said that in his view “it looks as if we have reached a new spring with Pope Francis and his initiatives.” He went on to describe how “encouraged” he was by the Pope’s participation in the prayer in Lund, Sweden for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2016. Lund, he added, was "a milestone on the road we journey along together."
Although there are still “tensions” and “difficulties” ahead in the ecumenical dialogue, said Pastor Robra, “there is so much more that unites us than what separates us.”
Cooperation with Vatican dicasteries “improved a lot”
The WCC official said their cooperation with Vatican dicasteries like the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue or the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development “has improved a lot.” "There were not bad before," he explained, but "there is now much more space and willingness for meaningful cooperation beyond the theological dialogues."
Referring specifically to the upcoming papal visit to the WCC headquarters, Pastor Robra said it was “amazing” that Pope Francis is concentrating so much on the WCC during his Geneva visit in June, saying this was very different to two previous visits by past Popes to Geneva.
“We hope that together we can continue a pilgrimage of justice and peace to those at the margins of society,” he said.
Describing Pope Francis as "a bridge builder," Pastor Robra said the papal visit to the WCC headquarters demonstrates "the oneness of the ecumenical movement that the Catholic Church joined with the promulgation of the Degree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio." "It would be such an important step forward, he continued, when "it becomes visible that the Pope is not speaking just in the interest of the Catholic Church but rather anticipating the one, holy, apostolic and catholic Church with those who are separated until now."