An appeal for peace, unity despite differences

POPE Francis was in Geneva, Switzerland, last week – not for any program or activity of the Roman Catholic Church which he heads, but to join the World Council of Churches (WCC) which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

The WCC is a fellowship of 350 Christian churches throughout the world. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member, but sends accredited observers to its meetings and they cooperate in some areas.

In the long history of Christianity, many wars have been fought between nations following one or another of the many Christian faiths. The Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 began as a war between various Protestant and Catholic states in central Europe that developed into a general conflict that fragmented the Holy Roman Empire. As late as the 1990s, British unionists who were mostly Protestants battled Irish nationalists who were mostly Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The World Council of Churches was founded in 1948 and its members today include 349 global, regional, national, and local Christian churches, among them Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, etc. The members of its many churches and denominations number about 590 million people in about 150 countries.

It was to the anniversary celebration of the WCC in Geneva that Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.299 billion Roman Catholics, journeyed last week in what he called an “ecumenical pilgrimage.” His meeting with WCC leaders, he said, was “not mere courtesy.” He said he wanted to discuss with them the need for “unity for peace” among the churches, as the world is facing a “crisis of hope, a crisis of human rights, a crisis of mediation, a crisis of peace.”

In Geneva, he met with church leaders from both North and South Korea who, in an ecumenical forum, appealed “to all countries to refrain from confrontation and militarization in the region.” In his speech before his non-Catholic Christian hosts, the Pope said, “I have desired to come here, a pilgrim in quest of unity and peace. I thank God because here I have found you, brothers and sisters, already making this same journey.”

The meeting in Geneva of the leaders of so many Christian churches stands out at a time when there is so much conflict – trade wars and actual wars, refugees dying in sinking ships, children getting separated from their families, political and church leaders assailing one another. The Pope acknowledged the diversity that exists today among Christians but their differences, he said, should not be made excuses for inaction. It was an appeal that should likewise be heeded by national political leaders in many nations around the world.

What do you think?

Written by Tempo Online

Catriona Gray, nagtaray

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