In the German city of Augsburg, which embodies memories of both division and reconciliation, World Council of Churches (WCC) and Catholic leaders have been discussing increased practical cooperation in peace-building and the protection of migrants and refugees.
Members of the Joint Working Group (JWG) between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC concluded a plenary meeting on 7 September in Augsburg, where a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed by Catholic and Lutheran leaders almost two decades ago. That agreement put an end to the central doctrinal dispute which bitterly divided Catholics and Protestants in 16th century Europe.
During their four-day meeting, members of the group worked together on two documents providing practical recommendations to churches facing the challenges of migration and peace-building in contexts of violence and conflict. The two texts, due to be published before the end of the JWG’s current mandate in 2020, draw on the theological reflection and pastoral experience of members working in countries across the globe.
The document on migrants and refugees will also draw on the work of a joint Vatican-WCC conference scheduled for 18-20 September in Rome on Migration, Xenophobia and politically motivated Populism.
During their plenary, the group met with the Catholic bishop of Augsburg, Konrad Zdarsa and visited many of the sites linked to the history of the Reformation. Those included the Renaissance palace where Italian Cardinal Tommaso Cajetan met with Martin Luther in an encounter which had definitive consequences for the Reformation movement.
During the JWG meeting, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairperson of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, reflected on the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and its connections to unity.
The JWG was set up in 1965 as an advisory body to foster better relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC. It is currently led by co-moderators Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste and Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
Catholics, WCC map future together after papal visit to Geneva (WCC press release of 5 September 2018)