[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The relationship between the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church is being reviewed in a five-day meeting beginning today at the Ecumenical Centre in Switzerland.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is “a fellowship of 348 member churches who together represent more than half a billion Christians around the world,” it says on its website. Most Anglican provinces are members of the WCC, as are most of the world’s Orthodox churches. Its membership also includes Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, African Instituted, Assyrian, Evangelical, and many more.
But the Roman Catholic Church has never been in membership; despite being part of local ecumenical groups of churches in different parts of the world.
In 1965, following what the WCC calls “the ecumenical thaw in relationships . . . encouraged by Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council,” a Joint Working Group (JWG) was established between members of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Last year, in a message to mark the 50th anniversary of the JWG, Pope Francis urged them to “become ever more a ‘think-tank,’ open to all the opportunities and challenges facing the churches today in the mission of accompanying suffering humanity on their path to the kingdom, by imbuing society and culture with gospel truths and values.”
A review of the relations between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church is a key focus of the five-day meeting of the JWG which gets underway today (Tuesday). The JWG is co-moderated by Metropolitan Nifon of Târgoviște, from the the Romanian Orthodox Church; and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, the Roman Catholic Church’s Primate of Ireland.
“One session in the five-day programme aims to address ‘co-operation on inter-religious relations, on refugees and migrants, and on justice and peace,’” the WCC said. “There also will be discussions of Pope Francis’s exhortations Evangelii Gaudium and Amoris Laetitia, and of his encyclical Laudato Sí’.
“Other topics before the group are to include finding doctrinal common ground, world mission and evangelisation, marriage and the family, environmental threats to God’s creation, the on-going ecumenical pilgrimage and ‘building the agenda of the JWG for the coming years.’”