Pope Francis has this month met with the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, Secretary General of the World Council of Churches.
The Pope remarked that this encounter “marks an important chapter in the long and fruitful relationship between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches”, and acknowledged “the service it performs in the cause of unity between believers in Christ”.
“Since its creation, the World Council of Churches has offered a great contribution to forming the sensibility of all Christians with regard to the fact that our divisions represent a major obstacle to our witness to the Gospel in the world.
"These divisions must not be accepted with resignation, as if they were simply an inevitable component of the historic experience of the Church. If Christians ignore the Lord's call to unity, they risk ignoring the Lord Himself and the salvation He offers through His Body, the Church: 'there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name … by which we must be saved.'
“The way to full and visible communion is a path which still proves today to be arduous and uphill. The Spirit, however, urges us not to be afraid, to go ahead with trust, and not to content ourselves with the progress that we have been able to experience in these decades.
"Prayer is fundamental on this path. Only in a spirit of humble and persistent prayer can we attain the necessary farsightedness, discernment and motivations for offering our service to the human family, in all its weakness and with all its needs, both spiritual and material”.
Dr Tveit said, “I believe that in our time God is opening new ways for us to unity, and for how the world can see our communion in Christ, particularly in the ways we can serve the world together.”
He was referring to Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium which speaks of the joy of sharing the gospel. The “WCC rejoices that the call to work for justice and peace, in deep Christian solidarity and for the benefit of all human beings, is seen as a gospel imperative by so many parts of the Christian family,” Tveit emphasised.
Dr Tveit mentioned WCC documents such as ;The Church: Towards a Common Vision' and 'Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in a Changing Landscape'. These documents, he said, stress the concept of “servant church” and how a “church must be inclusive, sharing in a mission from the margins”.
The WCC chief also spoke about the Pope's planned visit to Jerusalem where he will meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch Barholomew I.
Dr Tveit said: “We heartily appreciate that you are going there as a pilgrim at a time urgently calling for a sustainable conclusion to the peace process.”
For many years the WCC has worked and prayed for peace in Jerusalem, he said. “We know that religion and faith play a significant role in the conflict in what should be a city of peace. We believe that only a peace with justice, with a shared city of three religions and Israel and Palestine as two independent states, can there be an end to the occupation and the violence in this region."
Dr Tveit pointed to the call from the WCC Busan assembly in 2013 asking churches and people of good will to join a “pilgrimage of justice and peace”.
Along with emphasising the important role of faith leaders in seeking solutions to conflicts in the world, Dr Tveit also spoke about issues of climate change and economic justice as major concerns in the pilgrimage of justice and peace.
“The future of humanity is threatened; the poorest among us are already feeling the worst consequences of them. We encourage you and the Roman Catholic Church to be with us in mobilising a real change of mind, heart and priorities,” he said.
Dr Tveit said his personal conversation with Pope Francis was “very positive”.
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.