Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Pope Francis and the World Council of Churches; Walking, Praying and Working Together
Pope Francis is making a ground breaking visit to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva on Thursday 21st June. This visit celebrates the collective commitment of the Roman Catholic Church and the personal interest of the Pope in Christian unity. It is also part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the World Council of Churches. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, a leader among Orthodox Christians, preached at the service of celebration at St Pierre Cathedral, Geneva on Sunday 17th June.
Pope Francis has an interest in ecumenism highlighted by this visit and by a 2016 trip to a Lutheran World Federation gathering in Sweden to mark the 500 year anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. This is only the third time a Pope has visited the WCC; Paul VI visited the WCC in Geneva in 1969, and John Paul II in 1984. The Vatican and the WCC established a joint working group in 1965.
This visit is significant to the lives of local churches as it indicates that closer relationships and working between all Christian traditions are possible and have the blessing of and encouragement from our leaders at a global and denominational level. Many barriers to unity are slowly breaking down.
The WCC consists of 350 member churches including most Protestant communities around the world alongside many Orthodox churches across seven regions. It represents the interests of around 500 million Christians globally and is the largest ecumenical organisation in the world. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC – it has never sought membership – although it is a member of the Commission for Faith and Order and the joint working group continues to work together on mutual interests of both partners.
The following people were part of the British and Irish delegation in Geneva and are available to be contacted by local press organisations about this visit.
Members of the WCC Central Committee*
Archbishop Angaelos – The Coptic Orthodox Church – & 020 7993 9001
Rt Revd Alan Abernethy – The Church of Ireland – on sabbatical, not available for interview
Revd Sarah Moore – The United Reformed Church – 07796 162828 – Kendal, Cumbria
Ms Miriam Weibye – Church of Scotland – 07799 716147 – Edinburgh
Revd Dr Emma Whittick – The Church in Wales – 07988 741122 – Lampeter, Wales
The following were also present
Bob Fyffe – Roman Catholic Church – General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
Revd Dr Susan Durber – United Reformed Church – Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission
Janet Scott – Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) – Advisor from Churches Together in England
*The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches is the main governing body of the organisation between meetings of the WCC Assembly. The CC consists of 150 members and meets every two years; the Assembly meets every seven years.