By Richard Marsden
Details have been released today by the Vatican for Pope Francis’ “ecumenical pilgrimage” to Geneva to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The programme for the day visit to the city on Thursday, 21 June includes a meeting with representatives from various denominations at Geneva’s Ecumenical Centre followed by Mass at a convention centre to the north of the city.
Pope Francis will be the first pontiff to visit Geneva since Saint John Paul II, who stopped there in 2004 as part of a six-day pastoral visit to Switzerland.
Holy See is an observer of the WCC
The Pope will pray and dialogue with members of the World Council of Churches who come from 110 countries and represent more than 500 million Christians including Orthodox, Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans and Methodists. The Holy See is not a member of the WCC but is an observer of the body and often sends a representative to its meetings, which aim to foster unity between Christians of different denominations.
Meetings, prayer, and lunch
After a welcome ceremony at Geneva’s international airport on the morning of June 21, Pope Francis will hold a private meeting with the President of the Swiss Confederation, who is currently Alain Berset.
The Pope will then travel to the World Council of Church’s centre to take part in an Ecumenical Prayer gathering at which he will give a homily. Afterwards, he is set to enjoy lunch with the leadership of the organisation at the Ecumenical Institute at Château de Bossey, some 25 km outside of the city, before returning to Geneva to give a discourse as part of an Ecumenical meeting.
First papal Mass in Switzerland for 14 years
Concluding the visit in the early evening, the Pope will celebrate Mass at the large Palexpo convention centre close to the city’s airport from which he will return to Rome at 8pm.
More than 70,000 people came to the last papal Mass presided over by Saint John Paul II 14 years ago and officials at Palexpo say that their venue could hold even more people.
Around 38 per cent of the Swiss population identifies itself as Roman Catholic, with a further 27 per cent of citizens belonging to Protestant churches.