In an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit stressed the significance of Christian unity. He also expressed appreciation for Pope Francis’s call to pray for peace in Syria and his call for churches to remember the poor, encouraging Christians to work for economic justice.
The WCC general secretary, who represents a fellowship of 345 member churches in more than 110 countries, expressed these views March 7 during his visit to Rome hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church.
In his remarks 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 emphasized.
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”.
Tveit also spoke about Pope Francis’s planned visit to Jerusalem, where he will meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch Barholomew I. 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,” Tveit added.
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 emphasizing the important role of faith leaders in seeking solutions to conflicts in the world, 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 mobilizing a real change of mind, heart and priorities,” he said.
Tveit called his personal conversation with Pope Francis “very positive.”