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Farewell to Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary by Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca

Farewell speech to Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary by Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the WCC

03 April 2020

Farewell speech to Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary by Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the WCC


I find it difficult to give voice to the “sending words” and cannot but use apophatic terminology to share what we feel: a bitter joy, a freeing sorrow, a joyful sadness.

We feel sad that after ten years of working together, the time has come for you to leave WCC and to return to your home country and your church. At the same time, we are rejoicing with you that the Church of Norway is getting back one of her children, solidly experienced in ecumenical and international work, and who is taking the venerable position of her presiding bishop.

We are sure that you will lead your Church with new vision and enthusiasm the same way you have led the Council during the past ten years.

If I am to express our gratitude to you, I would have to give a long sermon. So, I will refrain myself only to four points.

1.I remember very well the enthusiasm with which you have shared and promoted the visionary post-Busan paradigm of ecumenism:  the pilgrimage of justice and peace and how this whole idea came to your thought after meditating in front of stained glass windows with many colours coexisting and interrelating with one another, at the Eglise de Notre Dame de Toute Grâce, on the Plateau d’Assy, France. I also remember that you shared your reflection about that image with Pope Francis when we visited him after the Busan Assembly. We may not know clearly where the paradigm of “pilgrimage” originates, but almost at the same time WCC and other church leaders found themselves speaking the same language and using the synonymous wordings: pilgrimage, walking together, common journey. And this paradigm has become the guiding principle which penetrated the whole work of the WCC in this period.

2.I am also aware that the theme of the next assembly has been for a long time a search and longing of your heart for speaking and articulating the love of Christ in relation to his Cross which has to be at the centre of the Ecumenical Movement. There were many debates on that and on the biblical text from 2 Corinthians 5,14, the starting point and basis of the theme of the Karlsruhe Assembly. But this has been finally selected and approved by our governing bodies and this is to shape the Ecumenical Movement in the next period post Karlsruhe. Thank you very much for your visionary contribution.

3. Your work in further developing Bossey as a conference centre and credible academic institute of ecumenical formation; the Green Village project which was initiated and started under your leadership and guidance; the securing of the pension fund for the future etc are great achievements;

4. Your passion for and commitment to bringing solutions to and reconciliation in situations of conflicts and war have been outstanding and the profile of the WCC in international affairs has become visible and highly respected and appreciated during your time of service.

Finally, I would like to express personally my thanks and gratitude for your trust in proposing my name to the Leadership of the CC to take temporarily the role of leading the Council until the next Central Committee which will elect a new general secretary.

I will do my best to serve as I did during all my years of service, but with much humility and determination.  I am not afraid of challenges and crises because often those offer a chance for renewal, reshaping and a new beginning while trying to listen to and follow God’s will in the concrete situations of our times. It happened that all responsibilities which were entrusted to me during my years of service at the WCC were given in times of crisis and challenges. And out of that I have learned that one cannot work alone, bringing solutions to or having achievements alone. To be successful is necessary to stay always in solidarity, to be aware of the need and to consciously search for the help of the others, to work together with the others. I will do my best to fulfil this temporary role but together with the colleagues, with the SLG and under the leadership and guidance of the LCC and the governing bodies.

A new structure will be proposed and implemented later this month, as the perspective for this period grows clearer. Until then, work continues as until now but with additional responsibilities for me as acting general secretary. The programmes which reported to me until now continue to report to me, until further notice.  Reporting to me from today are the SLG colleagues the managers of Human Resources, and of IMD and PMER, and the coordinators of the Assembly Office and of the Conference office and governing bodies; as well as the staff of the general secretariat. I am sure that together we will do our best to lead and move the ecumenical boat towards the next Assembly.

And I am grateful to you, Olav, that you have accepted to be called anytime I need help for counselling or for guidance.

I pray that God enlightens your path as you leave the WCC, gives you strength, power of service and witness so that you continue to walk together with us as a pilgrim for justice and peace.


Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca
Acting general secretary
World Council of Churches