By Philippa Hitchen
Pope Francis’ forthcoming visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva will provide a strong signal to the international community that trust and cooperation can prevail over the divisions of historical conflicts or religious identities.
That was the message at the heart of a press conference on Tuesday providing details of the ecumenical pilgrimage which the Pope will make to the World Council of Churches on June 21st to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the global fellowship of Christian Churches.
The visit, which will include a meeting with the President of the Swiss Confederation and a Mass for the local Catholic community, marks a “historical milestone” in the relationship between the WCC and the Catholic Church. That’s according to WCC General Secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, who told journalists the event will convey a strong message to the Churches, but also to the wider global community:
“A message that is possible to build relations of trust, cooperation, and even love, over divisions caused by historic conflicts and events, bridging different religious convictions and practices. It is possible to have wider horizons than our church, our own people.
It is possible to share a vision based on our Christian faith that brings us together and makes us able to do a lot together. One of principles in this ecumenical movement has been that ‘we should do together what we can do together’, this is what we manifest through this visit”.
Logo for pilgrimage
The WCC leader, alongside Fr Andrzej Choramanski from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity presented the logo for the visit. It depicts a boat, with a cross for a mast, sailing on waves that symbolise the desire of Christians to travel together in search of justice and peace in the world.
Fr Andrzej spoke of the half century of relations between the Catholic Church and the WCC, even though the former has never become a full member of the fellowship, for both theological and practical reasons.
“It is not impossible that in the future the Catholic Church will not join, but I think that, for now, it is not the question that both sides are asking at this moment. I presented the rich collaboration that we have and, and without being a member of the WCC, the Catholic Church is a member of several commissions of the WCC…..”
City of dialogue
The local Catholic Bishop Charles Morerod spoke of the significance of Geneva as a city of dialogue, home to the United Nations institutions, as well as the World Council of Churches. While relations between Catholics and Reformed Churches in the city are good, he said, the Pope is coming to remind us that dialogue, openness and ecumenism must remain a priority for the Catholic community.
Today, more of Geneva’s residents declare themselves non-believers than members of any religious community. In such a secular context, the theme of this joint pilgrimage – Walking, Praying and Working Together – takes on a new urgency for all Churches, in Switzerland and beyond