Vatican City, 24 June 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis sent a message to the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Reverend Olav Fykse Tveit, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Joint Working Group between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. The text was read by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, during a commemorative congress held at the Centro Pro Unione in Rome.
Francis writes that this occasion offers “a moment to thank the Lord for all that the ecumenical movement has achieved since its beginning over one hundred years ago, inspired by a longing for the unity which Christ intended for his body, the Church, and by an emerging sense of sorrow for the scandal of division between Christians”.
Since its inauguration in 1965, the Joint Working Group has been active “not only in ecumenical issues, but also in the areas of interreligious dialogue, peace and social justice, and works of charity and humanitarian aid”. He added that the Joint Working Group “should not be an inward-looking forum”, but instead should increasingly become “a 'think tank', open to all the opportunities and challenges facing the Churches today in their mission of accompanying suffering humanity on the path to the Kingdom, by imbuing society and culture with Gospel truths and values”.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, continued the Pope, “I noted that realities are more important than ideas. The Joint Working Group must be oriented to addressing the real concerns of the Churches throughout the world. In this way, it will be better suited to proposing collaborative steps that not only draw the Churches closer together, but also ensure that they offer an effective diakonia suited to the people's needs”.
In fulfilling this task, “the Joint Working Group distinguishes itself by its own character and aims. The nine reports produced thus far bear witness to the growing understanding and appreciation of the bonds of brotherhood and reconciliation which, in the context of the changing landscape of Christianity in the modern world, sustain Christians in their common witness and evangelising mission. We must recognise, though, that in spite of the many ecumenical achievements of the past half century, Christian mission and witness still suffer due to our divisions. Disagreements on various subjects – in particular anthropological, ethical and social issues, as well as issues related to the understanding of the nature and conditions of the unity we seek – demand further sustained efforts. Our dialogue must continue”.
The Pope concluded his message by encouraging the Group to further its discussion on crucial ecumenical issues and to promote ways for Christians to testify together to the real, though imperfect, communion shared by all the baptised. “May we always trust that the Holy Spirit will continue to assist and guide our journey, often in new and sometimes unexpected ways”, exclaimed Francis.