Catholic presence felt at WCC assembly in Brazil

Catholic presence at the Ninth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches this month has been a daily and visible dimension of the international gathering.

Catholic News Service reports that Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, headed a 19-member Catholic delegation that occupied a front row in the assembly's plenary hall. The delegation included Vatican officials as well as representatives of bishops' conferences and Catholic religious and lay movements.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the council, conveyed a message of greeting from Pope Benedict XVI at the assembly's opening session.

"Mindful of our shared baptismal faith in the triune God," the message said, Catholics "seek ways to cooperate ever more effectively in the task of witnessing to God's divine love."

In an opening-day press conference with a few members of the Vatican delegation, Cardinal Kasper explained to journalists that the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC for "structural reasons": Membership in the WCC is by national churches, whereas the Catholic Church is a worldwide church. However, he said, the church works with the council "with no rivalry or competition, in friendly collaboration."

One assembly-related workshop focused on the 40-year relationship between the Catholic Church and the WCC. The workshop considered their joint studies on such topics as baptism, moral and ethical issues and interchurch marriage.

At the assembly's plenary session on "Church Unity: Claiming a Common Future," Argentine Dominican Father Jorge Scampini was one of three speakers offering reflective comments on the text "Called to be the One Church."

The Catholic presence was also visible in the assembly's worship life. Evening prayer under the red- and green-striped big-top tent brought each working day to a close, and the prayer was conducted according to the liturgical format of a particular church. On one of the evenings, all participants joined in Catholic vespers.

In a program segment designated for denominational gatherings, a standing-room-only crowd of about 150 Catholic participants packed a large classroom at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, which hosted the assembly.

The Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist minister from Kenya and the WCC secretary-general, was greeted with a standing ovation when he came by the classroom for a special visit. He expressed his appreciation for the Catholic spirit of welcome and hospitality.

"When I arrived in Porto Alegre," he said, "a Focolare group was there to greet me. This kind of open-armed welcome from members of the Catholic Church happens in not just one part of the world, but everywhere I go. It is, for me, a gift of grace."

Catholic presence felt daily at WCC assembly in Brazil (Catholic News Service 20/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Council of Churches | Assembly
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Pope commits to working with World Council of Churches (CathNews 15/2/06)

22 Feb 2006