Pope Francis in Geneva urges ‘unity’ with non-Catholics

Pope Francis in Geneva urges ‘unity’ with non-Catholics

The pope has addressed a global inter-Church conference in Geneva, and called on all denominations to work together. He’s keen to close the gap between the 1.3 billion-strong Catholic faithful and other Christians.

Pope Francis on Thursday called for deeper unity between Catholics other Christian faiths, as he visited Geneva at the invitation of an inter-church alliance of which the Catholic Church is not a member.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which represents 350 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican churches from more than 100 countries, Francis told the audience to “break down barriers of suspicion and fear” that have divided them since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

“In the course of history, divisions between Christians have often arisen because at their root, in the life of communities, a worldly mindset has seeped in,” the Francis said during the one-day trip.

Consumerism replacing religion

He warned that “indifference prevails in the streets of today’s world. Driven by our instincts, we become slaves to unbridled consumerism, and God’s voice is gradually silenced.”

Francis called for more collaboration among Christian denominations to spread Gospel values and cooperate more on issues such as fighting poverty and injustice, and defending the environment.

“After centuries of conflict … charity allows us to come together as brothers and sisters,” he told the audience.The pope later gave Mass for about 40,000 members of Geneva’s Catholic community gathered in the city’s Palexpo conference center.

Divisions run deep

Historically, divisions between the Catholic Church and the Protestant confessions have run deep. The dissenting movement launched by Martin Luther more than 500 years ago and its strict interpretation engrained in Geneva by John Calvin in the mid-16th century launched centuries of often bloody divisions in Europe.

The WCC’s members are made up of Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant denominations and together represent about 500 million faithful, compared with 1.3 billion for the Roman Catholic Church, which is not a full member.

The pope has often made it a priority to strengthen ties with other Christian denominations and religions but, in Germany, he was recently caught in a controversy.

Earlier this month, the Vatican blocked German bishops from publishing a document that would have broadly allowed Protestants married to a Catholic to take part in Holy Communion, the rite where wine and bread is shared in memory of Jesus Christ’s last supper.

The “intercommunion” issue has been the subject of bitter debate in German religious circles.


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