World Council of Churches Leader Wants to Reinforce Ties With Vatican

Samuel Kobia Reveals His Priorities as New Secretary-General

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GENEVA, SEPT. 3, 2003 ( The new secretary-general of the World Council of Churches lists as one of his priorities the reinforcing of relations with the Vatican.

Samuel Kobia, a Methodist pastor from Kenya, also wants to strengthen unity among the council churches and bolster ecumenism.

Kobia, 56, married and the father of four, is the first African chosen for the highest post in the council. The WCC is a community of 341 denominations from more than 100 countries. The Catholic Church is not a member, but it maintains relations of cooperation, especially with the Faith and Constitution Committee.

The Vatican received the news of Kobia’s election last week very positively.

«His great qualities are known, outstanding among which is a profound spirituality and theological preparation,» said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

On Tuesday, Kobia told Vatican Radio: «I would like to reinforce relations with the Vatican.» He said that he would do this himself as soon as he takes office.

«There are different areas in which we already cooperate together, for example, in work groups with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and in the realm of missions,» he added.

Interreligious dialogue also is prominent in Kobia’s program, as it «is an important means to overcome violence and promote reconciliation and democracy.»

He continued: «The change of the fabric of the family in the world of today is at a critical point. This is why family problems also constitute one of the priorities.»

The new secretary-general stressed the importance of spirituality: «The world today is going through problems which I believe are more of a spiritual than political or economic nature, because the meaning of life is questioned, and certainties are falling.»

«Although they might seem to be political questions,» he said, «they are instead profoundly spiritual and moral questions.»

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