The WCC delegation visited the Centro Pro Unione, meeting with director Fr James Puglisi and associate director Prof. Teresa Francesca Rossi.
The group also visited with Rev. Matthew Laferty from the Methodist Ecumenical Office, and with several representatives from the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy.
Pillay said the delegation was deeply grateful to hear about the Centro Pro Unione’s ecumenical library, the Methodist Ecumenical Office’s work with ecumenical relationships, and the unity expressed in the joint work of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, especially in the area of refugees.
Pillay said, “The Federation`s work in the support, integration, language assistance, and education provided for refugees is most noteworthy and commendable. Often the work of the churches is not known and we don`t do it for publicity but in simple obedience to the call of God to care for the poor, neglected, and forsaken. In this context, it is so pleasing to note the united Christian witness and service provided by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy to refugees. They have so much to share from this experience.
“It is really wonderful to know that there are groups of people who manage to keep the fire of ecumenism burning and alive in different ways,” added Pillay. “The WCC commends these initiatives and looks forward to possible future collaborations and engagements. May the desire for Christian unity and witness continue to keep shining in these different ways as we proclaim Christ’s love to the world.”
Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, WCC central committee moderator, expressed how impressed he was during the visit to the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy. “It is a strong witness how these small churches live the love of Christ in very concrete public issues such as dealing with refugees in a dignified way,” he said. “The ‘humanitarian corridors’ that they have organized have made a safe passage to Europe possible for 5,000 people fleeing from war, violence or other forms of threat for their lives in their home countries. I also treasure their support for search and rescue mission for refugees on the Mediterranean whose lives are in danger.”
Fr James Puglisi expressed how honored the staff of Centro Pro Unione was to host the WCC delegation, and to learn more of how Centro Pro Unione could be engaged in some of the future projects being planned by the WCC Faith and Order Commission.
Puglisi highlighted to the WCC delegation how the Centro’s library contains documentation of international and regional theological dialogues, and the fact that materials are present in many languages.
The WCC delegation expressed appreciation for the formation projects of the Centro Pro Unione, particularly the Mutual Accountability Desk for Ecumenism and annual Summer Course, and for the attention paid to the heuristic aspect of these projects oriented towards a constant meta-reflection on the dynamics of reception and ecumenical formation.
Puglisi and the Centro staff spoke about their ongoing programs as well as future programs in development. Particular interest was shown in the proposed Nicaea 2025 project that will mark the 1700th anniversary of the first Ecumenical Council at Nicaea.
As the visit to Rome concluded, Bedford-Strohm and Pillay both expressed their gratitude.
“Our talks with Pope Francis, Cardinal Koch, and representatives of the Vatican dicasteries have strengthened our ecumenical ties,” noted Bedford-Strohm. “Throughout our encounters and talks I have felt the ‘ecumenism of the heart’ which the unity document of the Karlsruhe assembly has put in the center of WCC’s ecumenical journey in the next eight years.”
Pillay reflected: “The WCC visit to Rome was an amazing and wonderful experience and encounter with fellow Christians and churches. It is just so incredibly powerful to see how churches are witnessing and exemplifying the love of Christ to a broken and troubled world. The complexities and struggles in the world require churches to work together in visible unity to bring hope, healing, reconciliation, unity, and peace. The WCC looks forward to our continued work with the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian communities to create a better world for all people and creation.”