Vatican, World Council of Churches to Meet Yearly

Annual Event a Fruit of Pastor’s Meeting With Pope, Curia Officials

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ROME, DEC. 13, 2010 ( When the new secretary-general of the World Council of Churches met with Benedict XVI earlier this month, among the gifts the Norwegian Lutheran pastor offered the Pope was a pair of gloves.

Linked to this symbol of cold weather, Olav Fykse Tveit spoke later with Vatican Radio about winter.

«One says that we may now have an ecumenical winter,» he reflected. «And as a Norwegian I ask back: What’s so terrible in the winter? We know that winter can be beautiful. […] In the winter we have a time to think, to reflect on what we have been through and what we can expect from the future and prepare well.»

Part of this future is a newly established annual meeting with the Vatican, set up as a fruit of Tveit’s visit to the Pope and members of the Curia.

The objective of the annual event is to «define a methodology of common witness and proclamation of the Gospel, to speak to the world with one voice, above all on ethical and theological topics,» L’Osservatore Romano explained in a report Wednesday.

The annual meetings will be more intimate than the current workings on relations between the Church and the council. The current commission was created in 1965 and has 36 members, 18 from each side.
But when Tveit visited the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and its president, Cardinal Kurt Koch, the new meeting plan was established.

Father Gosbert Byamungu, an official of the unity council who accompanied Tveit during all the stages of his stay in Rome, attributes this to «positive relations.»

According to the priest, those relations «help every movement» and when, «as in our case, there is friendship and trust, we can begin to discuss the most burning and difficult problems, which up to now have been avoided.»

Common issues

Tveit and the Pope met privately on Dec. 4 for about 15 minutes, and the pastor reported that the Holy Father offered his support and encouragement.
The Pope expressed interest in «the way we are developing and planning our future work,» explained Tveit in a statement at the World Council of Churches Web site.
Moreover, Benedict XVI urged putting «the Bible at the center of the theological talks and reflections, to reinforce the visible unity of Christians.»

The Pontiff and the pastor also discussed the situation of Christians in the Middle East, and the situation of the upcoming secession referendum in Sudan.

Regarding this latter issue, Tveit affirmed that the «Roman Catholic Church is a very important actor, and in Khartoum the Church has a very visible and strong presence.»

During his stay in Rome, the World Council of Churches official also gave a sermon at a Methodist church, visited St. Peter’s, stopped by a soup kitchen run by the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio, and met with Maria Voce, the president of a Catholic group dedicated to unity, the Focolare Movement.

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