World Council of Churches Office of Communication|
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
WCC WELCOMES SIGNING OF JOINT DECLARATION
According to the Rev. Dr Dagmar Heller, WCC Faith and Order, bilateral relations and conversations between different churches and Christian world communions are important for the WCC. "Bilateral dialogues can be seen as 'test cases' showing how far theological reflections, particularly the work of the Commission on Faith and Order, are actually being translated into practice. Such conversations are thus an important field for the reception of the WCC's work." She noted that conversations in which the Roman Catholic Church is involved are of special interest since, although the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, the two bodies have good working relationships in a number of fields.
Heller called the signing of the Joint Declaration in Augsburg "a small but significant step" towards healing a major division that has marked history, especially in Europe. However, she cautioned against raising hopes too high that the signing of the Declaration will bring immediate radical changes in practice at the parish level. "In a sense, this Declaration simply sets the seal on a development that has long since become a reality in the parishes." While this event is of fundamental importance and raises further hopes for further steps, especially as this is the first time the Roman Catholic Church has officially come to a doctrinal agreement with one of the Reformation churches, she reflected that "the long process to make these signatures possible reminds all the churches of the difficulties and obstacles that have to be overcome on the way to Christian unity."
Heller noted that the celebration in Augsburg on 31 October is an incentive to churches "to build on the foundations laid down by this Declaration and to create opportunities to make visible our God-given unity and to remove the obstacles in its way". She hopes that the signing will encourage other churches engaged in bilateral conversations "to achieve visible results and take symbolic steps to overcome the factors causing division between them".
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.