In a panel discussion at the German Protestant Kirchentag in Hamburg, the World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, expressed positive hopes for the leadership of Pope Francis.
Coming from Argentina, a country with widespread poverty, the pope speaks "from the bottom of society as a pastor about the issues of our world," said Tveit.
"Pope Francis has seen poverty as a reality and has dealt with it," he said.
The panel discussion was held on Saturday, 4 May, where Tveit was accompanied by Dr Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the conference of Roman Catholic bishops in Germany and Dr Katajun Amirpur, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Hamburg.
The discussions were moderated by noted journalist Beatrice von Weizsäcker.
It is a good sign that the pope has already expressed concerns about justice for workers in Bangladesh, Tveit said. In doing so, the pope has highlighted expectations that all Christians will attend to the needs of their fellow human beings.
"Why shouldn't an Argentinian be a good pope?" Tveit replied in response to the question about why a non-European was elected pope. "The world is not Europe," he said.
At the same time Tveit expressed caution about putting too many expectations on the pope alone. "We should put expectations on ourselves as well," Tveit said, "and work together with the pope where it’s possible."
When asked about the current situation of worldwide ecumenism, Tveit said, "Ecumenism is living together in this world on a local, national and international level. As Christians we have the common goal to be united. Our unity is a sign of God’s uniting all human beings. It is a sign that we can live together, talk to another and stand up for each other in solidarity."
Tveit said he sees the "open-mindedness" of German Protestants at the Kirchentag a "very good example and inspiration for all Christianity. "All those impulses are needed for Christians living together in peace all over the world, he added.
The WCC is an ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.