In a lecture that opened a summer course offered by the foundation Pro Oriente in Vienna, Austria, on 9 July, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit commemorated the WCC’s 70-year history and described its ongoing Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.
Pro Oriente was founded in 1964 by the Viennese cardinal Franz König to strengthen relationships between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches.
Different people have different ideas and expectations of what is at the heart of ecumenism, Tveit reflected.
“For some it is first of all about deepening relationships between the churches and theological reflection that brings them closer to visible unity,” he said. “They think of the doctrinal and ethical issues that are dividing the churches.”
And many will point to the need for joint action for justice and peace, advocating for change to overcome structural injustice, environmental destruction, and the threats of violence and war in far too many places while being with and supporting the marginalized and excluded in their struggle for life, Tveit added.
“For some all this is actually about unlearning the stereotyping, prejudice and enmity that separates people and puts them against each other and, instead, learning to live together as communities of diverse people who together form one humanity,” he said. “It has been and continues to be an important task of the WCC not only to keep the different streams of the ecumenical movement alive, but to foster their interaction with the world and with each other.”
Throughout its seventy-year history, the WCC has constantly adapted the focus of the work, responding to the needs of the member churches and the challenges of the world, growing in communion and visible unity so that the world may believe, Tveit continued.
“We have a new momentum in the one ecumenical movement,” said Tveit. “It is based on a concentration on the basic faith and calling we share: The love of Christ moves us on. It is responding to strong forces of division and polarization in our world today. We all need to be oriented towards the gift of love and how we make it a reality among us and in the world. The Pro Oriente institute was established with this vision for reconciliation and unity between the great traditions of Christianity. The agenda is still of great significance, and it is reminding us that we are called to serve the unity of the world.”
“In our anniversary year, we affirm that we will continue to move together on a journey that has its beginning in the call of God to become a pilgrim people searching the unity, justice and peace of God,” he concluded.