Posted by: thebluemusicblog | June 27, 2018


Olav Fykse Tveit is the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a fellow Norwegian. One evening in January we were sitting together, celebrating his birthday, when he informed me about a possible visit of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to WCC in Geneva. I heard nothing more for a while, until a couple of weeks ago when Olav called me and said that there was one ticket waiting for me, to participate in the morning service in the chapel at the Ecumenical Centre and at a celebratory ecumenical meeting with His Holiness the same afternoon. I had to register with the police to receive clearance for security, and security was very strict, hundreds of police officers were closing down the neighbourhood. After having waited for an hour in the chapel, the Pope came walking in to the chapel and smilingly greeting us all.X+V1%mJMSr+15DuK6r5xRQ

In his address to the ecumenical group, the Central Committee of WCC and we, representatives of sister organisations of WCC, His Holiness said this: “Dear brothers and sisters, allow me to thank you for your commitment to unity, but also to express a concern. It comes from an impression that ecumenism and mission are no longer as closely intertwined as they were at the beginning. Yet the missionary mandate, which is more than diakonia and the promotion of human development, cannot be neglected nor emptied of its content. It determines our very identity. The preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth is part of our very being as Christians. The way in which the mission is carried out will, of course, vary in different times and places. In the face of recurring temptation to tailor it to worldly ways of thinking, we must constantly remind ourselves that Christ’s Church grows by attraction.


But what makes for this power of attraction? Certainly not our own ideas, strategies or programmes. Faith in Jesus Christ is not the fruit of consensus, nor can the People of God be reduced to a non-governmental organisation. No, the power of attraction consists completely in the sublime gift that so amazed the Apostle Paul: “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings” (Phil 3:10)”


“What is really needed is a new evangelical outreach. We are called to be a people that experiences and shares the joy of the Gospel, praises the Lord and serves our brothers and sisters with hearts burning with a desire to open up horizons of goodness and beauty unimaginable to those who have not been blessed truly to know Jesus.”


“Dear brothers and sisters, I wanted to take part personally in the celebrations marking this anniversary of the World Council, not least to reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to the cause of ecumenism and to encourage cooperation  with the member churches and with our ecumenical partners. In this regard, I would like to reflect briefly the motto chosen for this day: Walking, Praying and Working Together.”



“Walking. Yes, but where? From all that has been said, I would suggest a twofold movement: in and out. In, so as to move constantly to the centre, to acknowledge that we are branches grafted onto the one vine who is Jesus. Out, towards the many existential peripheries of today’s world, in order to join in bringing the healing grace of the Gospel to our suffering brothers and sisters.”

“Praying. In prayer too, like walking, we cannot move forward by ourselves because God’s grace is not so much tailored to fit each individual as spread harmoniously among believers who love one another. Whenever we say “Our Father”, we feel an echo within us of our being sons and daughters, but also of our being brothers and sisters. Prayer is the oxygen of ecumenism.”


“Working together. Here I would like to reaffirm that the Catholic Church acknowledges the special importance of the work carried out by the Faith and Order Commission and desires to keep contributing to that work through the participation of highly qualified theologians.”


Then it was time for the Holy Father to leave the hall and continue the visit in Geneva by attending a service for 40 000 people in Palexpo, the huge exhibition hall in Geneva, where every year one of the most famous car exhibitions in the world takes place.


In my thoughts I went back 6 years, to May 28, 2012, when I visited Buenos Aires and the anniversary of YMCA Argentina.Cardinal Bergoglio was the leader of the Church in Argentina, and he participated in an ecumenical service to celebrate the YMCA anniversary. He is a great friend of the YMCA in Argentina.


During my visit to Buenos Aires Cardinal Bergoglio invited me for an official audience, and we were talking together for more than an hour, He made a solid impression on me, he was genuinely interested in young people and the work of the world wide YMCA among young people. He asked a lot of questions and we shared a number of aspects related to YMCA and church.


A few months later I realised how small the world is and how intertwined we are with one another, like wheels turning around and around and moving one another. Late one evening we were sitting in front of the television screen waiting for the white smoke coming from the chimneys in the Vatican to announce the successful election of a new Pope. The small window went up and there I saw the new Pope. All the others in our room asked who that was, and I could immediately answer that this is the Cardinal from Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio, and I told with some pride that I had visited him a few months earlier, and that he was a friend of the YMCA!


In his final speech to us in Geneva, Pope Francis said: “Let us encourage one another to overcome the temptation to absolutise certain cultural paradigms and get caught up in partisan interests. Let us help men and women of good will to grow in concern for events and situations that affect a great part of humanity but seldom make it to the front page. We cannot look the other way.” It is problematic when Christians appear indifferent towards those in need.”

“The Lord, the Good Samaritan of mankind (cf. Lk 10:29-37), will examine us on our love for our neighbour, for each of our neighbours (cf. Mt 25:31-46). So let us ask ourselves: What can we do together? If a particular form of service is possible, why not plan and carry it out together, and thus start to experience a more intense fraternity in the exercise of concrete charity?”

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