Christ’s cross unites, WCC general secretary says in Turkey
During his first visit with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey, and on the occasion of the Feast of the Cross on Sunday, 7 March, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, “On the cross Christ stretched out his arms to embrace the world. The grace of the cross unites us all.”
Tveit’s recognition of the unity of Christians echoed the recent Sunday of Orthodoxy encyclical from Bartholomew in which he said, “the truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue.”
Upon his departure from Istanbul to return to Geneva on Tuesday, Tveit said: “This first meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch was a great encouragement and reconfirms their commitment to strengthen and vitalize the WCC.”
“I came here to celebrate the Feast of the Cross because the cross is what unites all Christians,” Tveit said of the visit. “Here they have to carry the cross of Christians living in a context where the Christian community is experiencing a decline in their members and at times struggles to maintain their religious rights.
Tuesday morning Tveit visited the Theological School of Halki on Heybeliada island in the Marmara sea off Istanbul which was closed by Turkish authorities in 1971 and has not been permitted to reopen.
The Halki school was the patriarchate’s main theological seminary until its closure but remains in complete repair and ready for the day when it is allowed to reopen. On the day of Tveit’s visit fresh painting of the facility was being done. It is also the location of a monastery.
Recognizing the enduring relationship between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the WCC fellowship of churches, Tveit said: “We have a common commitment to work for unity and to share our witness for the care of God’s creation.”
Tveit was referring to the significant work that has been done over the years by Bartholomew to call for the protection of the environment and the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a founding member of the WCC.
With reference to the 6.0-magnitude quake that killed more than 50 people on the second day of Tveit’s visit, he said: “I would like to express our solidarity with the victims of the earthquake Monday in eastern Turkey.”
While in Istanbul he also met with a broad range of church leaders including representatives of the Armenian and Syrian Orthodox churches, as well as different Catholic and Protestant churches.
Tveit was accompanied on the visit by Georges Lemopoulos, deputy general secretary of the WCC and Prof. Amele Ekue, dean of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey.