Pope and World Council of Churches leaders speak of war and division

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Recognizing how war and political differences can increase Christian divisions, believers must remain focused on Christ and his gospel, said members of a delegation from the World Council of Churches who met with the Pope Francis.

The Rev. Jerry Pillay, WCC general secretary based in Geneva, and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, moderator of the WCC’s central committee, met with the pope at the Vatican on March 23. Vasile-Octavian Mihoc, WCC program manager for ecumenical relations and faith, was also present.

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, moderator of the central committee of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Pope Francis and the Reverend Jerry Pillay, secretary general of the WCC, meet at the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on March 23, 2023 (CNS Photo/ Vatican Media)

Everyone, including the pope, expressed concern at the meeting about how the churches are “disunited due to other factors, including political and economic,” the WCC said in a press release the same day. day.

“We recognized that some of these aspects certainly run into churches and relationships with churches and affect them in negative ways,” Reverend Pillay said in the press release.

“We affirmed the centrality of Christ in our conversations, and how we can focus on the gospel together, and how that really helps us in our relationships in the world,” the general secretary said.

Reverend Pillay said they also discussed the situation in Ukraine, sharing with Pope Francis “our perspective on the dynamics of what is happening and expressing our concern.”

“We shared that we are planning a new round table, in which we will bring together Ukrainian churches, Orthodox churches and other church leaders – and also with the Russian Orthodox church,” for three days in Geneva, said the Secretary General.

“The idea is to bring them all together in a conversation about what it means, in terms of Christian unity, to face the context of war,” he said.

According to the WCC press release, the proposed roundtable would explore “how to put ‘Christ at the centre’ as it relates to Ukraine” and would not attempt to resolve “the many issues between the three church organizations”. Because the proposal has just been announced, the WCC said there was no immediate response as to whether the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church would accept the idea.

Bishop Bedford-Strohm said he and Pope Francis had spoken about ways to strengthen the unity of the Church, saying: “We have agreed that our common concern must be to put in place signs of unity. and understanding in a divided world. For this, we need an “ecumenism of the heart”, which gives a clear common witness to Christ, even where the institutional unity of the churches has not yet been achieved.

“Together we see this witness to Christ also in a clear commitment to the world: to treat refugees with dignity, to overcome poverty and hunger in the world, to overcome the destruction of nature” and to take measures for the protection of the climate, he added.

“Particularly now, a Christ-based spirituality and the civic engagement of churches that comes with it is important,” he said. “Only in this way can churches be forces for peace and reconciliation in this world.

Read more Crisis in Ukraine

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