Pope Francis speaks at an Ecumenical Encounter between Pope Francis and the World Council of Churches on 21 June. On 21 June 2018,

Ecumenical encounter between Pope Francis and the World Council of Churches, 21 June 2018, Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

The three-day meeting opened 23 March with addresses by the PCID president, Cardinal Miguel Ayuso Guixot, and WCC’s acting general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, both praising the successful collaboration of the programmes.

Since the last WCC assembly, staff of PCID and WCC-IRDC can boast extensive and fruitful collaboration, including eight joint staff meetings, numerous conferences and consultations, expanding relations with Jewish and Muslim groups, and new bilateral dialogues with Taoists (PCID), Confucians (WCC) and Sikhs (WCC). Numerous joint studies have explored interreligious themes, most recently education for peace and Serving a Wounded World: Towards Interreligious Solidarity during the pandemic.

”These examples of mutual collaboration testify to the deepening of trust, respect and friendship between staff of the two bodies,” said the Joint Working Group of the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church in its most recent report on WCC-Vatican relations and activities during this period.

For his part, Sauca claimed that the success of the relationship vindicated an ecumenical approach to the interreligious arena. “While it may feel like a major accomplishment just to get our own flock together,” he said, “it is the combined witness of the whole oikoumene that most strongly speaks to our dialogue partners, not to mention geopolitical policy-makers and the wider world. We saw this so clearly in the lead-up to the Paris Climate Accords in 2016.”

Sauca further stressed that robust Christian identity does not preclude serious interreligious encounter but rather legitimates and even compels it, saying, “I fully believe that we are most authentic and effective in this arena when we nurture our own strong Christian identity, rooted in Christian spirituality and theological reflection. Ironically, it is there that we find the most profound authorization of and encouragement for fearless interreligious exploration.”

The two groups have been collaborating since 1977. Serious institutional sponsorship of interreligious dialogue is a child of the sixties, when momentum from Vatican II led to establishment in 1964 of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Non-Christians, while the WCC’s parallel programme, now dubbed Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation (WCC-IRDC), began in 1971.

Fr Sauca welcomed further collaboration, noting that “our planetary peril necessitates radical commitment to life and the God of Life.  In all these phenomena, and across the global challenges, we also find an interreligious dimension and perhaps even an interreligious key.”


Read the full text of Fr Sauca’s address

Read the communique of the meeting

The WCC’s programme in interreligious relations

See the WCC Publication Serving a Wounded World