By Linda Bordoni
On Thursday 21st June Pope Francis travelled to Geneva for a one-day apostolic visit during which he marked the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches and led an ecumenical prayer service.
The Pope also celebrated Holy Mass and met with the Swiss President, but ecumenism was the theme of the day, as illustrated by the visit’s motto: “Walking together, Praying together and Working together".
The WCC is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.
It brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians.
Present in Geneva for the Pope’s visit to the WCC was Bishop M.A. Daniel of the Methodist Church in India.
He spoke to Vatican News’ Hélène Destombes about the significance, for him, of the Pope’s encouragement to continue walking the path of Christian unity:
Bishop M.A. Daniel said that the Pope’s visit represented a precious moment of encouragement and affirmation for all churches committed to pursue the path towards Christian unity.
Role of the Catholic Church in ecumenism
He said it was particularly important because as head of the Catholic Church, Francis’ message carries great weight.
“Catholics play such an important role all over the world so if they take leadership it helps all the churches come together to stand for our cause” he said.
Pope's messages highlighted the need for a new evangelical impulse
Reflecting on Pope Francis’ two speeches to the WCC leadership and to all of its members, Bishop Daniel said they were both “meaningful” and in both of them he “invited us to come together and love one another whatever happens”.
The Pope, he said, called for us to come together on common ground, show concern for others and spread the good news of the Gospel, also because in these very difficult times, the good news of Jesus is particularly needed.
“Love, he said, is the prime message to communicate, because conflicts and problems that are taking place because of intolerance are increasing: only the strong message of Jesus Christ - that we need to love one another” - guided by the Holy Spirit, is essential.
Importance of dialogue in India
Regarding problems of intolerance and religious strife in his own country, India, Bishop Daniel said that in India “multi-cultural practices” are embedded in the culture, but Hinduism represents the majority and “dialogue is very important to understand one another”.
“If you are like a frog in a well or a chick in a shell” (and cannot get out), he concluded, “It will not help to have understanding and be able to accommodate one another”.