Dear Participants of this 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held under the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”. Let me greet you all warmly on behalf of the official Catholic Delegation composed of almost twenty members and sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as many other Catholics attending this meeting in different capacities. I am particularly pleased to bring greetings from Pope Francis who sends his wishes of a fruitful meeting, together with a letter that I will read in Spanish.
The WCC Assemblies which gather together representatives of the member churches and many other participants from almost all Christian Communions are privileged moments in the life of the ecumenical movement. The Holy See has sent delegated observers since the Third Assembly in New Delhi in 1961 without interruption as a sign of our developing relationship.
Although the Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, since the time of the Second Vatican Council a multiform collaboration has developed between the two entities. Catholics officially appointed by the Holy See are active members of various WCC commissions including the Faith and Order Commission, the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, the Commission on Education and Ecumenical Formation. Different dicasteries of the Roman Curia and other Catholic organizations collaborate with their corresponding programmatic areas of the WCC. There is joint preparation of the texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, collaboration on joint projects promoting justice and peace, concern for migrants and refugees, the youth and the care of creation. Particularly important is the work of the Joint Working Group (JWG) which since 1965 has been a catalyst of fruitful cooperation. The JWG has recently completed its tenth mandated with the publication of two important studies with recommendations to churches, first on peacebuilding in situations of conflict, and second on migrants and refugees.
Special moments in the history of the relations between the Catholic Church and the WCC were three papal visits to the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. To open the road was Pope Paul VI in 1969. This was a gesture of high symbolic significance at a time when the relationship between the Catholic Church and the WCC was still at its beginnings. Fifteen years later John Paul II visited the WCC in 1984. In his speech during an ecumenical worship service he insisted that the involvement of the Catholic Church in the ecumenical movement was irreversible. On 21 June 2018, Pope Francis visited the WCC to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its foundation. This “ecumenical pilgrimage”, as it was called, was placed under the motto of “Walking, Praying, Working Together” which reflected well the kind of relationship that the Catholic Church has been developing with the World Council of Churches for over half a century.
The various aspects of our walking together on the path of Christian unity are sound achievements in the time-tested relationship between the Catholic Church and the WCC. May this Assembly move all Christian Communions represented here, and the world itself towards reconciliation and unity, in the power and light of the Holy Spirit.