By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis is flying to Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday to join in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a visit described as an “ecumenical pilgrimage”.
Catholic Church–WCC relations
Founded in the Swiss city in 1948, the WCC today is a 350 member-group in more than 110 countries and territories, making is the largest umbrella group of Christian denominations in the world. The WCC represents over 500 million Christians and includes most of world’s Orthodox Churches, a large number of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed Churches, as well as many United and Independent Churches.
The Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC but the two maintain good relations with exchange of visits and sending observers to their respective meetings and events. Most importantly they come together in a special way to organize the material for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January.
Ecumenical Institute of Bossey
During his daylong visit to Geneva, June 21, Pope Francis will also make a stopover at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, the international centre for encounter, dialogue and formation of the WCC, where he will lunch with the WCC leadership.
Thursday’s trip will be the third time that a Pope is visiting the WCC. Blessed Paul VI visited it on June 10, 1969. St. Pope John Paul II visited the WCC and the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey on June 12, 1984.
Vatican News reporter in Geneva, Helene Destombes, spoke to Rev. Dr Ioan Sauca, the director of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey to know about how they were anticipating the papal visit.
The Romanian Orthodox Church priest said the institute regards the papal visit as historical and is looking forward with “joy and hope”.
Highlighting the excellent Vatican-WCC relations, Fr. Sauca said that since 1967, every year students from the Ecumenical Institute have been visiting the Vatican and Rome for a week in January or February to learn about the Roman Catholic Church and its ecumenical efforts. Participants also have the good fortune of meeting the Pope.
Fr. Sauca hopes Pope Francis will also visit their chapel.