meeting in Zurich from 9 to 13 August under the theme “You shall go out in joy” (Is 55.12)

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that
your joy may be complete.

(John 15.15)

Geneva, 9 August 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the name of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is a joy for me to offer these greetings to the 30th International Congress of Old Catholic Churches on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The WCC is fellowship of 349 Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, United and Old-Catholic churches in over 120 countries calling “one another to visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe.”

I am grateful that Metropolitan Dr Vasilios of Constantia - Ammochostos, the moderator of the Faith and Order Commission and a member of the WCC Executive Committee, is with you to share these words of encouragement and to accompany you in prayer and celebration.

The theme of this congress, “You shall go out in joy”, is Isaiah’s call to prepare for a new Exodus, a new beginning, filled with God’s purpose and renewed by grace. It is a call to go and to be transformed by the very word of God as an “everlasting sign” of God’s covenant with all creation. It is a theme that will greatly enrich the mission and witness of the Old-Catholic Church.

The gospel of John continues the theme with Christ’s hope that, as his followers, the joy of Christ may be in us and our joy may be complete. Christ prayed that our joy may be complete in him and that his followers may be one, as Christ is with the Father, so that the world may believe in God’s saving love for all creation (John 17.21). To go out with joy is to be sent out as one in Christ, with the complete joy of salvation. We are called to go out together, making our unity visible, to serve God’s mission with a joy that is complete in Christ.

The family of Old-Catholic churches plays a deeply valued role in the one ecumenical movement – both in nurturing Christian unity and in making it visible. Together with others, you look to the undivided church of the early centuries as a guide to the unity that we seek to recognize in Christ. The vision of being united in Christ by the one faith that is “believed everywhere, always and by all” (St Vincent Lérins) is an inspiration for all churches.

The Old-Catholic commitment to dialogue and the longing to express unity through eucharistic fellowship are also sources of ecumenical encouragement. The Old Catholic Church has a history of dialogue with the Orthodox Church that pre-dates the modern ecumenical movement. And long before the Faith and Order study on “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry”, the Old Catholic Church was forging unprecedented agreements of communion with Anglican churches.

As a community rooted in the ancient teachings of the faith, the Old-Catholic family of churches seeks to remain faithful to the Holy Tradition. The commitment to convey the core teachings of the church, aware of the need to discern what tradition means for present and future generations is a sign of the living tradition that is renewing the Old Catholic community of believers.

It is the prayer of the World Council of Churches that this congress may be a blessing to all who gather in Zurich for prayer and celebration; and also to the family of Old-Catholic churches throughout the world. May the love of Christ, experienced in your midst through these days, unite you in faith and purpose. May the Holy Spirit renew and equip you for sharing the gospel with complete joy in Christ in new and creative ways.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches general secretary