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Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Over 5000 participants at the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) under the title God of life guide us to justice and peace. (October 30 – November 8, 2013)

A considerable boost for the ecumenical movement was the impression of the Secretary General of the WCC, Rev. Pastor Olav Fykse Tveit at the conclusion of the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches which is held every 7 years.

The Assembly was attended by 2, 760 registered participants (Church delegates, councilors, partner organisations, visitors, journalists and guests). But more than 5000 people from Korea also showed up to take part in the unique ecumenical experience. Also among those present were Patriarch Karekin II Supreme Catholicos of all Armenians, Archbishop of Canterbury Welby, and Ecumenical Patricarch Bartholomew I who sent a video-taped message.

Although the Catholic Church is not a member of the World Council of Churches, it collaborates actively through the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians which is represented in Busan by a delegation of qualified persons. Cardinal Kurt Koch read a message from Pope Francis.

Joan Back from the Focolare’s Centro Uno secretariat for ecumenical dialogue represented the Focolare Movement with Reformed Pastor Peter Dettwiler from Switzerland, who is in charge of ecumenism for the Reformed Church in the Zurich canton.

The Focolare has collaborated with the WWC since 1967. Chiara Lubich was invited three times to speak about the spirituality of unity at the headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. This time the important and continuing contribution of the Focolare was once again recognized by Rev. Tveit as he thanked Focolare president Maria Voce for the message she had sent.

“There was such a beautiful fraternal atmosphere among the Churches,” says Joan Back. “Even though they don’t share identical positions concerning ecclesiology or morality, they are still able to meet, pray and even work together.” A very important document was presented: La Chiesa: verso una visione comune (Toward a common vision of the Church) which was produced by the Faith and Order Department, edited by theologians converging ideas about ecclesiologies that are very different from each other.

Joan Back and Peter Dettwiler (centre) together with a group of participants at the Assembly.

Some of the topics identified as ecumenical challenges included immigration, the young generations, a multi-religious world and the growth of the pentecostal reality. Some of these were included in official declarations by the Assembly. The final message indicated the priorities for the next 7 years: “walking together on a pilgrimage for peace and justice”. This reflects the spirit of the event and the commitments that were made which “include the three tasks of: service, missionary testimony and theological reflection,” explained Walter Altmann who is a Lutheran Pastor in Brazil and outgoing moderator of the Central Committee.

In the end, when the 150 members of the committee were in agreement, they unanimously elected Anglican Agnes Aboum from Nairobi, Kenya as the moderator.

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