World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Communiqué of the JWG Plenary Meeting 2011

The island of Malta located in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and the shores of Tunisia and Libya was the setting for the last plenary meeting of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) before the forthcoming WCC assembly in 2013 in Busan (Korea). Malta has been at the crossroads of Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East throughout its history.

05 November 2011

Joint Working Group between RCC and WCC

Plenary Meeting

Archbishop’s Seminary, Rabat (Malta)

31 October – 5 November

Communiqué

The island of Malta located in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and the shores of Tunisia and Libya was the setting for the last plenary meeting of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) before the forthcoming WCC assembly in 2013 in Busan (Korea). Malta has been at the crossroads of Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East throughout its history. According to Acts 28, the Apostle Paul stayed three months on the island following his shipwreck on the way to Rome. While a prisoner, he established the Church in Malta that remains faithful to its apostolic origins until today. Meeting in Rome and Damascus before, the members of the JWG were again reminded of the breadth of St. Paul’s missionary vision of the church and community in Christ. Our deliberations were guided by the words of St. Paul to “receive one another just as Christ has received you, for the glory of God” (Rom 15:7).

This verse of St. Paul’s letter has guided the work of the JWG in the present mandate. Under the leadership of the two co-moderators Archbishop and Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste (Romania) and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (Ireland), the group finalized its work on two study documents on Reception and the Spiritual Roots of Ecumenism and reflections on the current issues of An Ecumenical Response to Migration and on The Church in the Life of Youth and Youth in the Life of the Church. The texts are addressed to the two parent bodies to inspire and activate the ecumenical life of the churches.

Both the harvesting of the fruits of many years of ecumenical dialogue and attention to the important role of shared spiritual life and values for ecumenism are vital for the future of the ecumenical movement and progress towards the goal of visible unity.

The importance of the work on migration and youth was confirmed by the reality of Malta. When cities and villages of the island were severely destroyed during World War II, many young people emigrated after the war to other parts of the world. It was fascinating for the JWG members to see how a diaconal service of the RCC for those emigrants was transformed over the years into a necessary and effective service for the many immigrants coming mostly from Northern Africa. They find their first refuge on the territory of the European Union in the state of Malta, having survived the dangerous passage on heavily overloaded boats in the sometimes stormy sea. Many taking this risk in the hope for a better future have lost their lives. The findings of the JWG encourage ecumenical cooperation with migrants and migrant communities and suggest creative approaches to work with young adults. The group will present its full report in August 2012 to the Central Committee of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU).

Hosted by the Archbishop’s seminary in Rabat, the group experienced the warm hospitality of leadership, staff and students of this school, which guaranteed an excellent working environment. Having the chance to meet Archbishop Paul Cremona OP of the Roman Catholic Church of Malta with other clergy of the Church, representatives of the Church of Scotland and the Church of England, and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Tommaso Caputo, the JWG members witnessed a fresh spirit of ecumenical openness and cooperation in this predominantly Catholic island, not least because of a common response to the steady arrival of migrants.

The group also visited the President of the Island, Dr George Abela, in the presidential palace in the capital, Valetta. Recalling the images of the recent Day of Reflection and Prayer for Peace in Assisi, the president underlined the role of religious leaders in the support of the peaceful resolution of conflicts and encouraged the ecumenical cooperation of Christian churches. Societies need the inspiration that unity in diversity is possible. Churches need to support Europe in the search for common values in this moment of the financial crisis.

On the last evening, the JWG participated as special guests at a concert “Singing for Peace” at St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Co-moderators and JWG members from different regions and Christian traditions led prayers for peace during this event.