On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the World Council of Churches, I am pleased to extend best wishes and congratulations to the delegates of the member churches gathered in Harare for the Council's eighth assembly, to be held 3-14 December 1998, on the theme "Turn to God -- Rejoice in Hope".
I wish to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation of the work of the World Council of Churches over these years. The World Council has been a valuable instrument at the service of the ecumenical movement, contributing in a significant way to the promotion of unity among Christians, in response to the Lord's prayer "that they may all be one" (John 17:21).
The celebration of the World Council's golden jubilee, as well as the theme of the assembly, offer an important occasion to give thanks and praise to the triune God for progress made towards the great jubilee year 2000, which could provide a special opportunity for all Christians to offer common witness in concrete ways to their One Lord Jesus Christ.
With regard to the relationship between the World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church, it is our hope that ways of future collaboration within the framework of the Joint Working Group can be found in order to intensify the search for Christian unity, also in its visible dimension.
I am pleased, on this auspicious occasion, to reiterate the irreversible commitment of the Catholic Church to work tirelessly for the realization of full Christian unity. "This unity which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ's mission... It belongs to the very essence of this community" (Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, 9). Such commitment is part of the Christian vocation, since every Christian by virtue of baptism is called to promote the unity of all Christians modelled on the life of the Holy Trinity. "To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father's plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ's prayer: ‘Ut unum sint'" (ibid.)
May the abundant gifts of the triune God accompany and sustain you and all your collaborators in this important work.
Joannes Paulus II
From the Vatican, 24 November 1998
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