Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Pope Francis and the World Council of Churches

We invite Metropolitan Nifon to open
with prayer. In the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. O merciful God, how good and pleasant it
is to be drawn together by you as sisters and brothers in Christ today, as
we commemorate that 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. Let the oneness of our prayer make us one in love and ministry, so that we who bear
the name of Christ may be instruments of your peace walking together as pilgrims
from the way to your kingdom and serving your people and Creation for
the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen. The welcoming address this afternoon
will be given by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches,
the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. Your Holiness Pope Francis, Your
Eminences, Your Excellencies honoured guests, dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it. Today we celebrate the one ecumenical movement. As we observe the 70th anniversary of
the World Council of Churches, we share the one call to unity and to work for
justice and for peace for all. Today we are honoured that
Your Holiness Pope Francis has decided to visit the World Council of Churches on this occasion; and today we are passing a milestone on our journey. It’s a day that many around the
world has prayed for and longed for. We are walking, praying and working together. We have been walking, praying and working together, and we will be walking, praying
and working together. With whom? First of all, together with
Jesus Christ. Our churches have been woven together by Jesus Christ. This tapestry behind us reminds us of this fact: we are created by God as human
beings for fellowship and unity with one another. And we are brought into the
one fellowship of the church, the one Church of Jesus Christ through baptism. And our calling is woven into our lives as it is in this tapestry. That they may all be one
so the world may believe. And today, with this visit, we show that it is
possible to overcome divisions and distance as well as deep conflicts caused
by different traditions and convictions of faith. There are several ways from
conflict to communion; And of course, we have not yet overcome
all differences and divisions. Therefore we pray together that the Holy
Spirit will guide us and unite us as we move on. I was deeply moved the first
time I saw this tapestry and sensed its call from Christ to me. And I’m deeply
moved that we are being here today together. In the tapestry we also see the
biblical symbol of rivers that are watering the trees whose leaves give
healing to the nations The world in which we live is in desperate need of signs that we can be reconciled and live together as one humanity, caring for
the life of the one earth, our common home. There is so much that we see and that could divide us, that creates conflicts, violence and wars. Even religion is misused for these purposes. Gaps between rich and poor, between peoples of different groups, and we see that racism remains and even increases. There is ongoing exploitation and destruction of our planet. And there are constant attacks on the dignity of human beings, undermining their rights and their chances to hope
for a better future together in this world. And particularly we see that is the case for many refugees. Your Holiness have been able to give them a lot of attention and we want to do that together because we should be united in our hope and in our
work for a shared and common future for all. All have the right to hope. Your Holiness, your visit is a sign of this hope we share. It is a milestone in the relations among the churches. We are here as representatives of different churches and traditions from all over the world. As representatives of the World Council of Churches, this fellowship or churches, we come
from different confessional traditions contexts and continents. Where you are present, Your Holiness, you represent the Roman Catholic Church as it exists in all places and among all peoples. You came from the “end of the world,” from the far south, as you said when you were elected. We are here together as women and men, young and old, from South and North, East and West. (Some of us like myself come from what was even seen as beyond the world, in the
north) This city, this house, with its chapel and hall, have been granted to us as a place to meet, sharing our life together as pilgrims. We pause here to reflect, to pray, to work and to find our way forward together. The motto for our meeting reflects also the life of the World Council of Churches through its history. By walking, praying and working together during these last 70 years we have learned much about what it means to be a fellowship of churches. That is also how the relationship has developed between the WCC and the Roman Catholic
Church after more than 50 years of cooperation. But why not live and do our tasks separately? Isn’t that easier? one may ask. Well, the answer is simple, and
it is given in the Holy Scriptures: “The love of Christ compels us.” We are called to the ministry of reconciliation – to be reconciled with God and to be reconciled
with one another. We are called to be peacemakers. To make peace is holy work. We work for a just peace. This is our task as Christians, this is our task as churches in the world today. We want to share this task with all people of good will, together with communities of faith or those without a religious
faith, together with institutions, organizations, missions and others here in Geneva – and elsewhere in the world that are working for justice and peace for all. The “real-politik” of the Church of Jesus Christ is always a matter of love. It is the beginning and the end of all we should say and do together. It is the motivation given by God for the one mission of God – pursued in the one ecumenical movement. We should not let anything or anybody – and particularly not our differences as churches deter us from aspiring to and doing what fulfils this missional imperative. Likewise, the dialogues between us have been dialogues of both truth and love. We are making one another mutually accountable, raising the same question to one another again and again: How is the love of Christ moving us on? How do we express our unity? The one ecumenical movement is called to give a single, joint answer. It must be a different from what cares for our own interests. we should continue to
call one another as churches to visible unity. Therefore, we are called to
use our learning from this common ecumenical journey in the struggles we have today
not only as churches but as one humanity. These struggles go on in the many places of the world represented by all who are here today but people are longing and struggling for reconciliation and for justice and
peace. Our expressions of unity today should be for the benefit of all churches,
but also for all people – in every corner of the world Your Holiness, you have in many ways through your ministry shown your commitment to
this holy ministry of unity serving justice and peace. going outside the comfort zones of the Church. Your leadership is a strong sign of how we can find expressions of this unity in diakonia and in mission, “walking, praying and working together.” I believe that this motto of our meeting also captures the profound
dynamism of this moment. of this day. We have a momentum building, with more and deeper expressions of our unity in Jesus Christ. There is a new momentum in our one ecumenical movement facing the reality of a divided humanity and the suffering creation. Those words summarize well the profile of the work of the World Council of Churches as we partner today “Being together on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.” Pilgrimage is a journey together in faith, hope and love. Together, we mutually recognize our one baptism in
the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We continue to work toward
a common understanding of the Church. We are committed to do the mission of the Church from the margins. We bring the churches together for joint peace initiatives in many places in the world. And some of them who know about
that are also with us today from North and South Korea. We address the situation of refugees. We raise issues of economic justice and we address poverty. We work hard to combat climate change and other threats to our environment; and we
promote interfaith dialogues and initiatives for peace. Together we also
mobilized for the Sustainable Development Goals. We do our annual prayers for Christian unity. In many of these tasks we work with the Pontifical Council to Promote Christian Unity (PCPCU), under the leadership of Cardinal Kurt Koch, who also has worked tirelessly for this meeting to happen. We are committed to doing more together with you and with other representatives of
the Roman Catholic Church. We trust that this day will inspire many new
initiatives for collaboration all over the world in many different contexts. It has taken 70 years to come to where we are today. This landmark is not a place
to stop. We will continue, and we can do much more together for those who need us. Let us make it possible for the next generations to create new expressions of
unity and justice and peace as we share more and more together. Like you, Your Holiness, we believe that Jesus Christ is walking with us and also meets us in
these sisters and brothers who are desperately in need of our support. We also believe that he will stay with us as we discover new places to meet and to share the gifts of God. Thank you very much, Olav. We now invite the moderator of the World Council of Churches, Dr Agnes Abuom, to give an address. Your Holiness,
Karibu – welcome! Your presence is a sign of hope and encouragement
to the World Council of Churches and its member churches and to many people of good will worldwide. Your visit here at the Ecumenical Centre shows that the churches’ commitment to unity for the sake of all humanity and all of God’s creation is alive and strong. Our shared hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the common witness of the
churches are antidotes to despair and indifference at a time of fragmentation and powerful self-interests that tend to triumph over solidarity, justice and peace. It is more than just a coincidence that today’s Gospel reading is taken
from Matthew, chapter 6 verses 7 to 15 the passage about prayer that includes the text of the Lord’s Prayer. There can hardly be a more basic text for our pilgrimage of justice and peace than this. Praising God’s holy name, praying for God’s kingdom to come that includes God’s care for the daily bread, the forgiveness of debts and the rescue from evil,
we are reminded of the daily practice of mercy and care that Jesus wanted to be the hallmarks of Christian life. The Lord’s Prayer informs in which direction and how we are walking, praying
and working together in mutual love. It shows us what really counts today
and opens a way into the future. And it reminds us that we neglect our responsibilities for life, justice and peace if the churches are divided. We know that the gift of God’s grace and
reconciliation cannot be reserved to my community, my faith tradition or nation. It flows out of God’s love for this world. As an African saying goes; “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” You came from Rome to Geneva. We hope that we can move on with you you as fellow pilgrims on our way:
– visiting the wounds of those suffering, thinking of the many children, women,
elderly men and women in many parts of our world. – celebrating God’s gift of life – engaging together in transformative actions that lift up the lives of people
wherever there is need for justice and peace. Our prayer is that we can journey together to build bridges and create spaces for the divided and isolated
people to reconnect and experience mutually enriching relationships. The world is waiting for us Christians to be together actors for justice and peace, putting those at the periphery at the centre. This requires that member churches of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church working
well together internationally and locally. We are grateful to you, Your Holiness, that we can already see a new quality of cooperation between the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and even the Secretariat of State. We are organizing together a World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism, and Populist Nationalism in the context of Global Migration in September this year in Rome. I am personally looking forward to fostering also our cooperation with children and young adults. They are the majority in many countries, but suffer most from poverty, preventable diseases and violence. We are working on strengthening the churches’ commitment to children in the areas of child protection, participation, climate justice initiatives with children, and increasingly on children as migrants and refugees. I am glad to see that this year’s General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops in Rome is
concentrating on young people in the world of today, their faith and vocational discernment. As moderator of the WCC Central Committee,
I had the privilege of participating, together with ecumenical partners, in various processes, in meetings, and in solidarity visits. We see fruits of such cooperation in many concrete situations. Let me just highlight how important it is that Christian churches look at each
other as one for example in South Sudan how critical joint action for justice
and peace is for the peace process in Colombia, how powerful is to pray and work together for the reunification process of the Korean Peninsula, how much a concerted action is needed in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of
I am aware of both the imperative and the great potential of an ecumenical synergy in South Sudan. “Walking, praying and working together”, churches strengthened their role in society and became a trusted companion in pilgrimage
of justice and peace in difficult times. We give thanks to God for the active participation of the Roman Catholic Church in this process. I have been to Colombia and realized with gratitude that the efforts of the World Council of Churches, together with the Geneva-based development alliance for Action of Churches Together – the ACT Alliance the Lutheran World Federation and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) to encourage peace negotiations had been well received and brought results. The way ahead might be long. But, once again, walking and praying together, we can play a constructive role. I have been to South Korea for the World
Council of Churches assembly and on other occasions as well. The concern of reunification has always been a high priority for the ecumenical family. Recently an ecumenical delegation including the general secretaries of the
World Council of Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches visited North Korea. We give thanks to God that today we are able to celebrate together
with the Korean Christian Federation and the National Council of Churches in
Korea the commitments expressed by political authorities, encompassing long-held ecumenical hopes and aspirations for peace on the Korean Peninsula. I have been part of a solidarity visit to Burundi and since I have been working closely with many ecumenical partners and friends, including the Roman Catholic
Church. We are committed to working with all religious leaders and all peace-seeking people of Burundi and to supporting their tireless efforts on the
ground to secure a lasting peace and stability in Burundi and the region-at-large. Before I conclude, Your Holiness, the issue of women in the peace
processes that can actually secure a lasting peace are very important. Let’s not relegate the role of women to just being reconcilers at community level. We need them at the table so that the agreements are not
just pieces of paper that political actors will trash – and then back to the
conflict. That is why, Your Holiness, we are wearing black today. Not because we disregard and disrespect the colour black. But because one of the greatest sins
that faces us in the world is rape and violence against women And we are saying: No! Enough is enough. The women and girls they are crying. What did we do? What did we not do? We are children of God made in the image of God and it is our prayer
that you also join us on this pilgrimage on this movement that seeks to bring to
an end a pestilence that is a shame in our family of believers, in our homes and
in the public square. What we say about South Sudan, Colombia, Korea and Burundi applies in many ways to countries and churches of the Middle East and others from Africa, Asia and the Americas that come to mind. We have heard our sisters and brothers calling for our prayers and solidarity during our Central Committee meeting. We hope and pray for them, that your visit marks indeed a new phase of our Christian cooperation and unity.
We want to assure you that we pray also for you and ask for God’s rich blessings for
your witness and service to the church and this world that we all share.
May God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen At this special stage on our common
journey, we are very pleased to invite His Holiness Pope Francis to address our
meeting. Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to meet you and I thank you for your warm welcome. In particular, I express my gratitude to the General Secretary, the Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, and the Moderator, Dr. Agnes Abuom, for their kind words and for their invitation on this seventieth anniversary of the founding of the World Council of Churches. In the Bible, seventy years represents a significant span of time, a sign of God’s blessing. But seventy is also a number that reminds us of two important passages in the Gospel. In the first, the Lord commands us to forgive one another not only seven times, but “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22). That number, of course, does not serve as a limit, but opens up a vast horizon; it does not quantify justice, but serves as the measure of a charity capable of infinite forgiveness. After centuries of conflict, that charity now allows us to come together as brothers and sisters, at peace and full of gratitude to God our Father. If we are here today, it is also thanks to all those who went before us, choosing the path of forgiveness and sparing no effort to respond to the Lord’s will “that all may be one” (cf. Jn 17:21). Out of heartfelt love for Jesus, they did not allow themselves to be mired in disagreements, but instead looked courageously to the future, believing in unity and breaking down barriers of suspicion and of fear. As an ancient Father in the faith rightly observed: “When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed into love, then the unity brought us by our Saviour will be fully realized”. We are heirs to the faith, charity and hope of all those who, by the nonviolent power of the Gospel, found the courage to change the course of history, a history that had led us to mutual distrust and estrangement, and thus contributed to the infernal spiral of continual fragmentation. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who inspires and guides the journey of ecumenism, the direction has changed and a path both old and new has been irrevocably paved: the path of a reconciled communion aimed at the visible manifestation of the fraternity that even now unites believers. The number seventy reminds us of yet another Gospel passage. It recalls those disciples whom Jesus, during his public ministry, sent out on mission (cf. Lk 10:1), and who are commemorated in some Churches of the Christian East. The number of those disciples reflects the number of the world’s peoples found on the first pages of the Bible. What does this suggest to us, if not that mission is directed to all nations and that every disciple, in order to be such, must become an apostle, a missionary. The World Council of Churches was born in service to the ecumenical movement, which itself originated in a powerful summons to mission: for how can Christians proclaim the Gospel if they are divided among themselves? This pressing concern still guides our journey and is grounded in the Lord’s prayer that all may be one, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). Dear brothers and sisters, allow me to thank you for your commitment to unity, but also to express a concern. It comes from an impression that ecumenism and mission are no longer as closely intertwined
as they were at the beginning. Yet the missionary mandate, which is more than diakonia and the promotion of human development, cannot be neglected nor emptied of its content. It determines our very identity. The preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth is part of our very being as Christians. The way in which the mission is carried out will, of course, vary in different times and places. In the face of the recurring temptation to tailor it to worldly ways of thinking, we must constantly remind ourselves that Christ’s Church grows by attraction. But what makes for this power of attraction? Certainly not our own ideas, strategies or programmes. Faith in Jesus Christ is not the fruit of consensus, nor can the People of God be reduced to a non-governmental organization. No, the power of attraction consists completely in the sublime gift that so amazed the Apostle Paul: “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings” (Phil 3:10). This is our only boast: “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6), granted us by the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life. This is the treasure that we, though earthen vessels (cf. v. 7), must offer to our world, so beloved yet so deeply troubled. We would not be faithful to the mission entrusted to us, were we to debase this treasure to a purely immanent humanism, adapted to the fashion of the moment. Nor would we be good guardians if we tried only to preserve it, burying it for fear of the world and its challenges (cf. Mt 25:25). What is really needed is a new evangelical outreach. We are called to be a people that experiences and shares the joy of the Gospel, praises the Lord and serves our brothers and sisters with hearts burning with a desire to open up horizons of goodness and beauty unimaginable to those who have not been blessed truly to know Jesus. I am convinced that an increased missionary impulse will lead us to greater unity. Just as in the early days, preaching marked the springtime of the Church, so evangelization will mark the flowering of a new ecumenical spring. As in those days, let us gather in fellowship around the Master, not without a certain embarrassment about our constant vacillations, and, together with Peter, let us say to him: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. Dear brothers and sisters, I wanted to take part personally in the celebrations marking this anniversary of the World Council, not least to reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to the cause of ecumenism and to encourage cooperation with the member churches and with our ecumenical partners. In this regard, I would like to reflect briefly on the motto chosen for this day: Walking, Praying and Working Together. Walking. Yes, but where? From all that has been said, I would suggest a two-fold movement: in and out. In, so as to move constantly to the centre, to acknowledge that we are branches grafted onto the one vine who is Jesus (cf. Jn 15:1-8). We will not bear fruit unless we help one another to remain united to him. Out, towards the many existential peripheries of today’s world, in order to join in bringing the healing grace of the Gospel to our suffering brothers and sisters. We might ask ourselves whether we are walking in truth or simply in words, whether we present our brothers and sisters to the Lord out of true concern for them, or if they are removed from our real interests. We might ask ourselves too, whether we keep walking in our own footsteps, or are setting out with conviction to bring the Lord to our world. Praying. In prayer too, like walking, we cannot move forward by ourselves because God’s grace is not so much tailored to fit each individual as spread harmoniously among believers who love one another. Whenever we say “Our Father”, we feel an echo within us of our being sons and daughters, but also of our being brothers and sisters. Prayer is the oxygen of ecumenism. Without prayer, communion becomes stifling and makes no progress, because we prevent the wind of the Spirit from driving us forward. Let us ask ourselves: How much do we pray for one another? The Lord prayed that we would be one: do we imitate him in this regard? Working together. Here I would like to reaffirm that the Catholic Church acknowledges the special importance of the work carried out by the Faith and Order Commission and desires to keep contributing to that work through the participation of highly qualified theologians. The quest of Faith and Order for a common vision of the Church, together with its work of studying moral and ethical issues, touch areas crucial for the future of ecumenism. I would also mention the active presence of the Church in the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism; collaboration with the Office for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, most recently on the important theme of education for peace; and the joint preparation of texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. These and various other forms of working
together are fundamental elements
in a sound and time-tested cooperation. I also value the essential role played by the Bossey Ecumenical Institute in the training of future pastoral and academic leaders in many Christian Churches and Confessions worldwide. The Catholic Church has long participated in this educational project through the presence of a Catholic professor on the faculty, and each year I have the joy of greeting the group of students who visit Rome. I would likewise mention, as a good sign of “ecumenical team spirit”, the growing participation in the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. I would also note that the work of our Christian communities is rightly defined by the word diakonia. It is our way of following the Master who came “not to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45). The broad gamut of services provided by the member churches of the World Council finds emblematic expression in the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. The credibility of the Gospel is put to the test by the way Christians respond to the cry of all those, in every part of the world, who suffer unjustly from the baleful spread of an exclusion that, by generating poverty, foments conflicts. The more vulnerable are increasingly marginalized, lacking their daily bread, employment and a future, while the rich are fewer and ever more wealthy. Let us be challenged to compassion by the cry of those who suffer: “the programme of the Christian is a heart that sees” (BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 31). Let us see what we can do concretely, rather than grow discouraged about what we cannot. Let us also look to our many brothers and sisters in various parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, who suffer because they are Christians. Let us draw close to them. May we never forget that our ecumenical journey is preceded and accompanied by an ecumenism already realized, the ecumenism of blood, which urges us to go forward. Let us encourage one another to overcome the temptation to absolutize certain cultural paradigms and get caught up in partisan interests. Let us help men and women of good will to grow in concern for events and situations that affect a great part of humanity but seldom make it to the front page. We cannot look the other way. It is problematic when Christians appear indifferent towards those in need. Even more troubling is the conviction on the part of some, who consider their own blessings clear signs of God’s predilection rather than a summons to responsible service of the human family and the protection of creation. The Lord, the Good Samaritan of mankind (cf. Lk 10:29-37), will examine us on our love for our neighbour, for each of our neighbours (cf. Mt 25:31-46). So let us ask ourselves: What can we do together? If a particular form of service is possible, why not plan and carry it out together, and thus start to experience a more intense fraternity in the exercise of concrete charity? Dear brothers and sisters, I renew to you my cordial thanks. Let us help one another to walk, pray and work together, so that, with God’s help, unity may grow and the world may believe. Thank you. Your Holiness, You spoke movingly of our common prayer. We now stand and sing, all together, the words that Jesus taught us. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen. Christ is our peace. The peace of the Lord be with you always. And with your spirit. The blessing of the Almighty God, Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and on your way for ever. Now and forever.

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