During a recent visit to Rome World Council of Churches' General Secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit called on the churches to be congregations of active peacemakers.
Dr Tveit also met with Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church as part of his participation in an event sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The global churches' chief invited the Catholic Church and the Pontifical Council to join in the “ecumenical pilgrimage for justice and peace”, saying that “churches are included in God’s work for peace”.
Tveit made these comments at a 50th anniversary celebration of the encyclical letter Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) issued by the late Pope John XXIII in 1963.
The event took place from 2 to 4 October 2013 in Rome.
The peace encyclical was issued by the late pope as a reaction to the political situation during the Cold War, urging that conflicts should be resolved by negotiations and not arms.
In his message, Tveit said that the consequences of Pacem in Terris can be discerned when “His Holiness Pope Francis calls for a peaceful solution in Syria and condemns the proliferation of wars”. He noted that Pope Francis’s call corresponds well with the outcomes of a recent WCC consultation on Syria, held in Geneva last month.
“Churches worldwide have spoken out against the war in Syria [and] must continue to raise their voices in their congregations and with their governments. We must strengthen the public outcry so that those in power will protect the common interest of humanity,” reads a joint communique from the WCC consultation.
In his message at this week’s event Pope Francis shared reflections on the theme Pacem in Terries.
“I wonder if we have learnt the lessons of 'Pacem in terris'. I ask myself whether the words 'justice' and 'solidarity' exist only in our dictionary, or if we indeed all work towards making them a reality,” he said.
“'Pacem in terris' does not intend to state that it is the Church's task to give concrete directions on themes that, in their complexity, should be left open to free discussion.”
“On political, economic and social matters there is no dogma to indicate practical solutions, but rather to favour dialogue, listening, patience, respect for others, sincerity and also willingness to revise one's opinion,” added Pope Francis.
In Rome, Tveit also introduced the theme of the WCC 10th Assembly, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”, to the participants of the event. He said that the concept of just peace “runs in the bloodstream of this assembly”.
Given that the WCC assembly will take place in South Korea, Tveit added, “the immediate context of the divided Korean Peninsula compels us to intensify our commitment to the reconciliation of deep divisions, to a world free of nuclear weapons, and to peace.”
The WCC assembly will be held from 30 October to 8 November in Busan.
Tveit concluded by sharing a message from the WCC’s International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, Jamaica, 2011, saying “Christians are to understand peace and peace-making as an indispensable part of the common faith. Peace constitutes a pattern of life that reflects human participation in God's love for the world.”