We will continue singing in the coming weeks and months this wonderful song of Per Harling on the theme of the forthcoming World Council of Churches 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe: “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity. In Christ’s love there is no fear. The Spirit helps us to be bold and free!”
No fear, dear friends, sisters and brothers! No injustice, no violence, no war! In Christ’s love we are free, we can, and we must be prophetic and bold, standing up for justice and peace. That is our call and our mission in this world: to struggle for the dignity of all human beings and the life of all creation.
Let us be moved by Christ’s love. Let us work for healing, reconciliation and unity. These words have deep meaning and very practical consequences in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, or of violence and war in Ukraine and in far too many other places. I have been involved for many years in trauma counselling and peace negotiations for instance in the Horn of Africa, the South Sudan and the Great Lakes Region. Our heart must be wide. Our support and solidarity must be with all people who suffer. Christ does not take sides with the armies in a war. Christ is always at the side of the suffering.
As the moderator of the central committee of the World Council of Churches, I want to take this opportunity to thank wholeheartedly all those churches in Germany who have invited us to come to Karlsruhe and who are already hosting us in very generous ways. Here at the Katholikentag, I want to mention especially the German Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Archdiocese of Freiburg who are fully involved in the local preparations. It is wonderful to see such very good ecumenical cooperation here in Germany.
I can extend these words of thanks to all of you. By being present here, you show your ecumenical commitment. I want to invite you to come to Karlsruhe and to participate in the assembly. And if you cannot be with us there, please follow the programme on the internet and accompany us with your prayers.
An assembly is not only the highest governing body of the World Council of Churches, it is a spiritual, celebrative and mutually encouraging gathering of the member churches - indeed the most comprehensive and most inclusive event of world Christianity in our times. An assembly unfolds its theme through common prayer, Bible studies, thematic plenaries and reflections on the most important challenges of our time that require clear responses by the churches together. It is the space where the churches set new directions for their common journey towards reconciliation and unity of all humankind and all creation. When the WCC 10th Assembly convened in 2013 in Busan, the churches called each other and all people of good will to embark together on a pilgrimage of justice and peace. We will bring the harvest of this eight-year long journey to the assembly, and we will decide on the next steps we have to take in our common witness of Christ’s love.
Every assembly of the World Council of Churches is a unique reflection of its time. Assemblies have been signposts for the churches since its founding 1948 in Amsterdam. To be true to our historic context today, we will have to confront ourselves also with deep reaching conflicts and disagreements among the churches in the spirit of reconciliation and unity. In that spirit, the ecumenical delegation under the leadership of the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Willem Visser’t Hooft came to Stuttgart right after the war in 1945. Receiving the Stuttgart declaration of guilt, this delegation opened the door for the German Protestant churches to the way of reconciliation and unity with all member churches of the World Council of Churches.
Examples like this will remind us also in Karlsruhe of the gift of Christ’s love that has the power to move finally even the world beyond enmity, injustice and violence, to reconciliation and unity. That is my hope. That is my expectation for the assembly in Karlsruhe.
What did we sing? “In Christ’s love there is no fear. The Spirit helps us to be bold and free!” So I pray for the assembly and all of us: May the love of Christ overcome our fear, may it empower us to be bold and free, may it move the world to reconciliation and unity,