The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, sent a letter of condolences to the Methodist Church in Uruguay on the passing of Rev. Oscar Bolioli, on 18 June.
In the letter, Tveit described Bolioli as “a crucial leader that helped build the milestones of the ecumenical movement” in Latin America and beyond.
An ecumenical leader and Methodist pastor from Uruguay, Bolioli always advocated strongly for human rights.
In the early 1960s, Bolioli acted as general secretary of the Latin American Union of Evangelical Ecumenical Youth (ULAJE), an experience that led him to a direct engagement with the WCC. In 1968, Bolioli was invited to become executive secretary of Youth at the WCC. In 1972, he was appointed to the Division of Ecumenical Action until 1974.
He presided over the Methodist Church in Uruguay between 1974 and 1979, at which time he also served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Uruguay. During this period, he helped several political deportees to leave the country and was responsible for sharing with the family members of prisoners the donations sent by the Swedish parliament. He also facilitated the visit of international religious to political detainees in Uruguay.
Between 1982 and 2000 Bolioli served as director of the Latin American and Caribbean Department of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. During this time, he led the São Paulo Process, which brought together churches, ecumenical and civil society organizations from all over Latin America and the Caribbean at a time when many countries were recovering from dictatorships and military regimes and struggling for democracy.
Bolioli would serve again as the head of his home church between 2002 and 2008, as well as from 2012 – 2016. In 2013, he was distinguished as an illustrious citizen of the national capital Montevideo.
At the time of his passing, he was the president of the Federation of Evangelical Churches of Uruguay.
“Particularly in the context of the WCC, we are thankful for his contributions to the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) and our Central Committee”, wrote Tveit.
“May God strengthen your church and especially Rev. Bolioli’s family in this time of sorrow. Our thoughts and prayers are with you”, concluded the WCC general secretary.
Bolioli is survived by his wife, Stella; four adult children, Sylvia, Eduardo, Sergio, and Alvaro, and numerous grandchildren.