Dear Mr President,
Dear Madam Secretary General,
Dear Members of the National Council of Churches in Switzerland,
Liebe Schwestern und Brüder, chers sœurs et frères:
It gives me great pleasure to offer greetings and heart-felt congratulations on behalf of the 349 member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on the 50th anniversary of die Arbeitsgemeinschaft christlicher Kirchen in der Schweiz.
Such an anniversary is a reason to celebrate. It is a time to look back with gratitude for what has been achieved and a time to look ahead with vision for a “living ecumenism” in Switzerland.
Since its inception, 12 churches have found their way into membership the council and have signed the Charta Oecumenica. Three more churches have guest status. We are grateful for the breadth of the ecclesial togetherness of the churches in Switzerland.
The topics you are dealing with in the Swiss ecclesial landscape have certainly changed over the past 50 years. Traditional churches are changing, new churches are joining and the society is different. This brings new theological insights and new social challenges. By sitting together, sharing convivial togetherness and encountering each other, relationships are strengthened. Ecumenism is the art of encounter and the joy of praying together.
Churches today face the temptation of marginalizing themselves. If we retreat we will not be criticized, is probably one of the unsaid, underlying thoughts. In an increasingly secular culture religion is more and more looked upon as a very private matter that does not link to the social realities which people live under. The ecumenical movement reminds us that ecumenism is about oikoumene, about all of life, all of the world.
As Christians, it is more important than ever that we stand close to each other and seek to speak together. When we speak with one voice, challenging injustice and oppression, we confess our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The pandemic has sharpened our view on the challenges we face – increasing division, increasing disparities, increasing racism, increasing populism, increasing violence. Our witness together, our living ecumenism, must offer hope through acts of love, reconciliation and healing.
For 50 years, Christ’s prayer for the unity of the church has sustained the council of churches in Switzerland. The same prayer sustains us all and continues to inspire for our living ecumenism – “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe” (John 17.21).
Together with the churches in Europe, the WCC is preparing the 11th Assembly, taking place in Karlsruhe, Germany from 31 August to 8 September 2022 under the theme “Christ´s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”. The invitation to meet in Karlsruhe comes from not only the churches in Germany, but also from the churches in Switzerland and France. This is a wonderful occasion to come together, across borders, to welcome the worldwide fellowship of churches after more than 50 years since the last WCC-assembly in Europe, the 4th Assembly in Uppsala in 1968. This is a once-in-a life-time opportunity to welcome the fellowship and renew our living ecumenism for the world.
I wish you God's blessing for your ecumenical work in Switzerland and that you will always rely on the wisdom of the book of Proverbs – “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16.3).
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop Emeritus, Anders Wejryd
WCC President for Europe