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Cooperation with Catholics is vital says WCC leader

The moderator of the World Council of Churches has warned against his grouping’s adopting a "self-contained, self-centred" attitude and says cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church is vital for the future of Christian unity.

"The World Council of Churches should not remain in a self-contained, self-centred existence," said Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church at a media conference during the WCC’s 14-23 February assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. "It should open itself to ecumenical partners and particularly the Roman Catholic Church."

The Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, whose more than 340 members are from mainly Protestant and Christian Orthodox traditions, but it cooperates with the council in many projects and serves on some of its committees. The assembly is being held on a Catholic university campus. Still, the Catholic Church and WCC members remain divided over issues such as the Eucharist, the role of clergy and papal authority.

"I consider the ecumenical collaboration between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches as being of decisive importance for the future of the ecumenical movement," Aram told the 15 February media conference.

Aram said he fully associated himself with concerns expressed in recent years by the Catholic Church that his Geneva-based grouping needed to give more prominence to the search for the visible unity of the Church.

"Visible unity should be at the centre of everything we do," he said.

The council’s general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia said he hoped for "concrete steps" to promote Christian unity following Pope Benedict XVI’s statement, after his election in 2005, that he would do everything in his power to promote the "fundamental cause" of ecumenism.

"It’s really a question of having the courage to make the next step," said Kobia.

Meanwhile, members of a joint working group between the WCC and the Catholic Church, originally set up in 1965, vowed in Porto Alegre to re-commit themselves to unity, in order to address and minister to "a more divided world".

"We are not just here to celebrate 40 years of the Joint Working Group but to rekindle our sense of commitment to ecumenism," Monsignor John Radano of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity told a meeting on the sidelines of the WCC assembly. "The more we strengthen our communion as Christians, the better for us to address a more divided world," he said.

The working group is a consultative body set up after the Second Vatican Council charged with initiating, evaluating and sustaining collaboration between its two parent bodies. "What is important is that we have now come to a level where we truly respect and trust each other," also said the Rev. Diane Kessler, one of the WCC representatives on the working group.

"We can now pray and play together, sometimes even quarrel and make up for it and end up stronger in our ecumenical spirit."

(c) Ecumenical News International