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WCC general secretary message to public event in Uruguay on the legacy of Emilio Castro

World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit sent a message to be read at a public event held on 15 October, in Montevideo, Uruguay, in Uruguay celebrating the legacy of Emilio Castro and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

16 October 2018

Geneva, 15 October 2018

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The World Council of Churches gives thanks to God for the life of Emilio Castro, who served for nearly twenty years as a leading member of the WCC staff, and from 1985 to 1992 as our fourth general secretary.

In 1973 he joined the World Council of Churches as director of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) bringing to this post, as the late Bishop Lesslie Newbigin said, “a glowing assurance about the gospel and a corresponding desire to share it, a burning compassion for the victims of public wrong, a pastoral care for individual people and a bubbling sense of humour.”

As director of this Commission, Castro paved the way for the active participation of churches from Eastern European countries in the life of the Council. His personal leadership was crucial for the production of Mission and Evangelism - An Ecumenical Affirmation, considered the most important and comprehensive statement on mission by the World Council of Churches, adopted in 1982 after lengthy discussions with churches all over the world.

Throughout his leadership in CWME, Castro insisted that the humanization of life through evangelism is a fundamental Christian responsibility and that the support and betterment of humanity, motivated by God's love, is the main aim of all missionary vocation.

In 1985 he became the fourth secretary general of the World Council of Churches, succeeding Philip Potter, a position in which he served until 1992.  His seven years in the post saw the Council facing some of the most critical changes in contemporary history, particularly surrounding the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

As the main officer of the Council, Castro fostered encounters with people of other faiths and ideological convictions and offered the open arms of fellowship to evangelicals.

He facilitated the participation and representation of Orthodox churches in all areas of the life of the Council and strongly advocated in favour of “eucharistic hospitality” in his conversations with church leaders and including Pope John Paul II.

A leading ecumenist of the late 20th century, Emilio Castro is remembered for his unfaltering efforts in bringing together Christian faith and spirituality with radical commitment in the struggles for justice.

As he once said: “The struggles to overcome oppressions have economic, social and political manifestations that should be considered on their own merits. But at the root there is a spiritual reality: principalities, powers of evil that need to be combated with spiritual powers and spiritual realities: the power of love, the power of hope, the power of the gospel.”

The late Emilio Castro left an unmatched legacy of passionate ecumenism behind him. His book “Pasion y compromise con el Reino de Dios”, first published in 2007, has now been translated into English and released in an edited version.

May his legacy continue to inspire us in our ecumenical pilgrimage.

Warm regards to you all. 
In Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary