Update: Broken world needs Christian unity, pope tells Christian leaders at WCC

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

(CNS) — Not only God, but today’s broken, divided world is begging for unity
among Christians, Pope Francis said on an ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva.

differences must not be excuses,” he said, because as Christ’s disciples,
Christians can still pray together, evangelize and serve others.

his 23rd apostolic journey abroad June 21, the pope spent several hours with
Christian leaders at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches, a
fellowship of 350 ecclesial communities, including many Orthodox churches. The
pope came to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of what is the
largest and broadest ecumenical fellowship in the world.

to reporters aboard the papal plane from Rome, the pope said, “This is a
trip toward unity,” representing the “desire for unity.”

was greeted on the tarmac by dignitaries and two children in traditional dress;
two former members of the Swiss Guard stood by the red carpet in the corps’ full
colorful uniform, which only happens on papal trips to Switzerland. Active
guard members traveling with the pope are always in plainclothes.

by the leadership of the WCC, the pope attended an ecumenical prayer service,
marked by songs from the Protestant traditions and the Catholic Church’s theme
song for the Jubilee of Mercy. There was a common witness of faith in reciting
the Nicene Creed and representatives from the Catholic Church and other
Christian communities alternated readings, including a prayer of repentance, which
asked God’s forgiveness for their disunity and failure to serve God and all his

his speech, the pope said, “Our lack of unity” is not only contrary
to God’s will, it is “also a scandal to the world.”

Lord asks us for unity; our world, torn by all-too-many divisions that affect
the most vulnerable, begs for unity.”

Francis, the third pope to visit the WCC, said he wanted to come as “a
pilgrim in quest of unity and peace.” He thanked God for having found “brothers and sisters already making this same journey.”

journey requires constant conversion, he said, and a renewed way of thinking
that rejects worldliness and seeks to live “in the Spirit, with one’s mind
bent on serving others and a heart growing in forgiveness.”

between Christians have often arisen because at their root,” he said, “a
worldly mindset has seeped in.”

self-concern took priority over concern for Christ,” he said, and from
there, it was easy for the devil to move in, “separating us.”

Christ entails loss, he warned, because “it does not adequately protect
the interests of individual communities, often closely linked to ethnic
identity or split along party lines, whether ‘conservative’ or ‘progressive.'”

must belong to the Lord above and before they identify with anything else, “right
or left; to choose in the name of the Gospel, our brother and sister over ourselves,” he said.

lunch at the WCC ecumenical academic institute at Bossey, outside of Geneva, the
pope paid homage to the courageous men and women before them who “changed
the course of history” with a love for Christ that overcame the mutual mistrust
and suspicion, which all “contributed to the infernal spiral of continued

at an ecumenical encounter with the central leadership committee of the WCC,
the pope praised their work and commitment to unity; however, he expressed his concern
that the Christian sense of mission was no longer “as closely intertwined”
with their ecumenical pursuits.

missionary mandate is more than just service and promoting human development,
he said; it includes “the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth”
and recognizing that the church grows “by attraction” to Christ
himself, not human ideas, strategies and programs.

in Jesus Christ is not the fruit of consensus, nor can the people of God be
reduced to a nongovernmental organization,” he said.

must never “debase this treasure” of knowing and praising God and his
glory, by turning it into “a purely immanent humanism.”

“troubling,” he said, “is the conviction on the part of some,
who consider their own blessings clear signs of God’s predilection rather than
a summons to responsible service” to the whole human family and the

pope said he wanted to “take part personally in the celebrations marking
the anniversary of the World Council” of Churches as well as reaffirm the
commitment of the Catholic Church to the cause of ecumenism and encourage

said it was critical that Christians come together for “the credibility of
the Gospel,” which is “put to the test by the way Christians respond”
to those suffering in the world today.

is problematic when Christians appear indifferent toward those in need,”
he said, urging everyone to avoid partisan interests or overemphasizing “certain
cultural paradigms.” Instead, he urged them to help people become aware of
events and situations that affect a large number of people, “but seldom
make it to the front page.”

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz

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