Photo: Peter Williams/WCC
29 January 2019
Almost 30 international students from the World Council of Churches (WCC) Bossey Ecumenical Institute, Switzerland, are embarking on a future of ecumenism, dialogue and unity that began with months of intense study and fellowship.
The students participated in a farewell service and ceremony on 28 January. “We are on the Christian journey together. This is one milestone in your lives, and I know how the time in Bossey transform the life to carry the common message of the WCC and the pilgrimage of justice and peace. We are not the same anymore after spending time together at the Ecumenical Institute,” explains Fr Prof. Dr Lawrence Iwuamadi, dean of the Ecumenical Institute.
Iwuamadi added: “The teaching is focused on the challenges for the churches in the 21st century, and the responses given through the modern ecumenical movement.”
“With this combination, you discover ecumenism as a life question, which is not just a theoretical issue, but touches the essence of being a Christian”, says Iwuamadi. “In your future work, we hope you will be able to help the churches to develop peace, justice and reconciliation as the heart of their calling”.
Throughout the semester, the students learned about the WCC and the wider ecumenical movement, its purpose, its history and its achievements. At the same time they practised ecumenical life by discovering and discussing their differences and by praying together.
During the recent Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the students were also given the opportunity to go on a study visit to Rome, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “The purpose of the visit”, says Fr Ioan Sauca, director of the Ecumenical Institute and deputy general secretary of the WCC, “was to get intensive exposure to the Roman Catholic Church and its engagement in the ecumenical movement. For many students it was an extraordinary experience to visit historical places of early Christianity, which they had heard of only in few lectures at home. And their active participation in the Vespers with Pope Francis at the end of the Week of Prayer gave them a lively idea of what is already possible to do together”.
As the students’ time at Bossey has now come to an end, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said in his remarks to the students: “This is a day of joy and graduation. This is not the end, this is the beginning, you are not anymore students, you are co-workers in the one ecumenical movement.”
Prof. Dr Hans-Christophe Askani, vice dean of the autonomous faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Geneva said in his sending words to the students: “You have spent some time far from home and I hope you have learned from the others, from the other traditions and other cultures. Keep that experience in mind, the diversity in the world. Now are you coming home, but keep in mind – be a good stranger at home.”
Since its creation in 1946, the WCC’s Ecumenical Institute at the Château de Bossey has been fulfilling its mission of ecumenical theological formation and education.