Recently we had the rather unedifying spectacle of the ‘Citrus Convention’ taking place in George Square in Glasgow, triumphalistically harping back to a sectarian conflict and ‘victory’ that is now almost 330 years old, that body pretending now, to be transformed into a fraternal and charitable organisation. The World Church has thankfully moved on from Glasgow 2015!
In contrast we have had the Pope in Turin this week, asking the Waldensians, whom the Catholic Church accused of heresy, excommunicated and persecuted for 800 hundred years, for forgiveness for their historically un-Christian and inhuman attitudes and behaviour. Instead of banging a drum outside their place of worship, Pope Francis was the first pope in 800 years to visit a Waldensian Church. The Waldensians are a denomination that have, to use a current and much-used phrase in certain circles, ‘punched above their weight’ in the Mission field. Their contribution to the spreading the Gospel here in Barotseland is both significant and substantial. The sins of the Waldensians were evangelisation by the laity and producing a Bible in the vernacular!
Horrors of horrors for some, the Pope has also suggested that being brothers and sisters in the faith, as in a family, does not mean you have to be identical, but you admit to having the same common origins, so we need to concentrate, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, on that communion that came before,
Pope Francis also criticised a world of ‘soap bubble values’, hypocrisy and delusion and urged the building of a world of love with an economy of creativity and courage, to replace the world that disrespects, uses and deceives people. The political elite all have interests in the arms industry and being ‘two-faced’ is the currency of the day. These vested interests failed to prevent atrocities such as carpet bombing and the Nazi persecution in Concentration Camps of Christians, Jews, Homosexuals and Gypsies.
The WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit also marked 50 years of ecumenism. Unity remains at the heart of all our efforts for common witness and contributions to ensure justice and peace for people and creation, he said. We are grateful and proud of the 50 years as a working together, promoting ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, peace, social justice and works of charity and humanitarianism. These are all ways for Christians to testify together to the real, though imperfect, communion shared by all who are baptized as we care for Earth, our common home. Together, we can address issues of community, cooperation, common interests, shared concerns, or even issues of controversy or conflict.
But, we confess in sorrow, that divisions still do not allow us yet to share in the fellowship of Holy Communion, but common purpose has thankfully been achieved on Baptism. Tveit said that there needs to be an awareness “of this deeper theological reading of our context” in a new phase of cooperation which cannot be business as usual, but an expression of our faith and a witness to the love of God revealed in Christ.
Metropolitan and Archbishop Nifon of Targoviste from the Romanian Orthodox Church, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of the Catholic Church are members of the WCC Faith and Order Commission and reciprocal arrangements have been implemented, with active Orthodox and Protestant participation in Catholic forums.