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Fr Sauca: “Our hope that they continue to seek and build new ecumenical relationships”

Fr Sauca: “Our hope that they continue to seek and build new ecumenical relationships”

© Luc Hegetschweiler/WCC

30 January 2017

Thirty-five international students from the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, are embarking on a future of ecumenism, dialogue and unity that began with months of intense study and fellowship.

The students participated in a farewell service and ceremony on 27 January. “The content of the teaching at the Ecumenical Institute is focused on the challenges for the churches in the 21st century, and the responses given through the modern ecumenical movement”, explains Rev. Dr Dagmar Heller, dean of the Ecumenical Institute and professor of Ecumenical Theology. “The methodology is a combination of academic teaching and experiential learning. This makes the Ecumenical Institute a unique place for ecumenical education.”

Throughout the semester, the students learned about the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the wider ecumenical movement, its purpose, its history and its achievements. They discovered the way of thinking and practising faith in Christian traditions other than their own and, at the same time, practised ecumenical life by discussing their differences and by praying together.

“With this combination, the students discover ecumenism as a life question, which is not just a theoretical issue about which one reads in books, but which touches the essence of being a Christian”, says Heller. “In their future work, we hope the students will be able to help their churches to develop peace and reconciliation as the heart of their calling”.

During the semester the students had different opportunities through study visits to get a deeper exposure to the main Christian traditions. The last of these visits, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was to Rome, on the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “The purpose of the visit”, says Fr Lawrence Iwuamadi, the Catholic professor at Bossey, who was responsible for the programme and – together with Rev. Dr Benjamin Simon - accompanied the students, “was to get intensive exposure to the Roman Catholic Church and its engagement in the ecumenical movement. For many students it was an extraordinary experience to visit historical places of early Christianity, which they had heard of only in few lectures at home. And their active participation in the Vespers with Pope Francis at the end of the Week of Prayer gave them a lively idea of what is already possible to do together”.

Simon concluded with a reminder about the Interreligious Summer School taking place in Bossey from 26 June to 14 July 2017. The topic this year will be “Living With and Loving Neighbours: Peacebuilding in Judaism, Christianism and Islam.”

Simon said, “Ten participants of each religion will live and learn together during a period of three weeks. The deadline for applications is 17 February. This is a great opportunity to live together and learn from one another.”

“As the students finish their studies at the Ecumenical Institute, it is our hope that they continue to seek and build new ecumenical relationships between faith communities in their home contexts,” says Fr Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC deputy general secretary and director of the Ecumenical Institute.

Since its creation in 1946, the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute at the Château de Bossey has been fulfilling its mission of ecumenical theological formation and education.

For more information, please visit the website of the Ecumenical Institute.