12 – 15 September 2017, Lisbon, Portugal
The Joint Working Group between the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church (JWG), established in 1965 to monitor and strengthen cooperation, met from September 12-15, 2017 at the Mother house of the Congregation of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Lisbon with the support of the Ecumenical Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Portugal headed by Bishop D. Manuel da Silva Rodrigues Linda. The meeting included an encounter with representatives of churches in Lisbon and a visit to the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima during the centenary celebrations.
The role of culture, religion, and dialogue in peace-building and the challenges and opportunities for ecumenical cooperation concerning migrants and refugees were discussed in depth at this meeting in light of the teachings of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel. During the current mandate (2014 – 2021), the 20-member JWG is chaired by the two co-moderators Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste from the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, Diarmuid Martin.
The JWG formed two theme groups on peace-building and the concerns of migrants and refugees. These groups work both between and during plenary meetings to address the issues before them, identify possibilities for greater partnership and practical recommendations for collaboration. Their work is accompanied by staff of the Holy See and the WCC with particular expertise in these areas of work.
The goal of the peace-building group is to identify the positive contributions churches can make together to the resolution of conflicts and prevention of violence. The group recognizes the fact that culture, religion and even dialogue can be misused to spark violence and conflict. There is a growing awareness among faith communities that peace-building needs the constructive involvement of the churches. It is important to build on already existing successful examples of ecumenical cooperation and to identify new possible ways in which the churches can witness to just peace.
The current situation of migrants and refugees is a significant “sign of the times.” It requires a common response by all churches and their cooperation with others working in the field. Churches are called to strengthen their collaboration in welcoming, protecting, integrating and empowering refugees and migrants. While migration has always been part of human history, the current reality of forced migration, the rejection of refugees and racist attitudes in many places are of growing concern for churches. The churches are committed to strengthening a culture of openness and inclusiveness.
The JWG will present pastoral recommendations for the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC on both issues. The aim of these recommendations is to bring the churches to greater unity in addressing areas of vital concern.