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World Council of Churches leader to speak at St Paul's Cathedral

Dr Olav Fykse Tveit is perhaps the most significant ecumenical visitor to St Paul's since Pope John Paul II in 1986

WCC General Secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, is to join an ecumenical service at St Paul's Cathedral on 13 October.

PHOTO: Peter Williams/WCC

By Mark Brolly

October 12 2016The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, is to preach at an ecumenical evening prayer service and deliver a public lecture at Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral this Thursday, 13 October.

Dr Tveit, who leads the Geneva-based fellowship of 348 churches whose members number more than 500 million Christians worldwide, is to be joined by heads of churches, leaders of the Victorian Council of Churches and other ecumenical representatives at the Festive Sung Evening Prayer – led by the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe – which starts at 5.10pm. Dr Tveit will deliver his lecture, on the current work of the World Council of Churches and future of the ecumenical movement, from 6.15pm.

He is visiting Australia at the invitation of Melbourne Anglican Assistant Bishop Philip Huggins, who is President of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Dr Tveit is perhaps the most significant ecumenical visitor to St Paul’s since Pope John Paul II prayed and lit a candle there for the unity of Christians with then Archbishop David Penman on his way to an ecumenical service at the MCG 30 years ago next month.

The WCC leader’s visit to Melbourne comes only days after Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Pope Francis issued a Common Declaration in Rome – 50 years after the first meeting of an Archbishop of Canterbury and a Pope since the Reformation – and barely three weeks after all three men joined more than 500 leaders of religious faiths at an interfaith World Day of Prayer for Peace gathering in the Italian town of Assisi, birthplace of St Francis. 

Bishop Huggins said: “We are always trying to better listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to our Church. The Revd Dr Olav Tveit’s role means he can bring to us special insight about what he sees and hears as he works with disciples of Jesus all over God’s world. His visit to Melbourne is therefore a profound opportunity to receive his insights and to deepen our partnership in the Gospel.”

Dean Loewe said it was not often that a serving General Secretary of the World Council of Churches visited Australia and St Paul’s very much looked forward to welcoming Dr Tveit to Melbourne.

“St Paul’s Cathedral has marked many ecumenical milestones, among the first of which was the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Cathedral to pray for the unity of Christians,” Dr Loewe said. “It is a delight to mark these many milestones on the journey to a shared future as Christians united in a reconciled diversity, witnessing together to the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ to be and become ambassadors of reconciliation.”

The WCC held its seventh Assembly – convened only once every six or seven years – in Canberra in 1991.

Dr Tveit, 56, is a pastor from the Church of Norway – a Lutheran church which is moving away from being an established church like the Church of England towards one more like the Anglican Church of Australia, separate from the state – and has led the WCC since 2010 as its seventh General Secretary. Before his appointment, he was General Secretary of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations and had served the WCC as a member of the Faith and Order Plenary Commission and as a co-chair of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum core group.

As WCC General Secretary, Dr Tveit led the Council through its 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea, in 2013 and has participated in international efforts in areas such as climate change, peacemaking and refugee resettlement.

The WCC, founded in Amsterdam in 1948, includes the Anglican, Protestant and Reformed churches, as well as most of those churches to which the world’s Orthodox Christians belong. The Roman Catholic Church, while not a member of the WCC, cooperates with it in many areas and is a full member of the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission – a body of theologians from many Christian traditions studying questions of doctrine (Faith) and those related to the ministerial structure of the Church (Order).