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WCC Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Tuesday June 27 2023

The WCC 75th anniversary service in Saint Pierre Cathedral, Geneva. Picture: Albin Hillert/WCC

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has commemorated its 75th anniversary with an ecumenical service at Saint Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, and a celebration at its offices in the city’s Ecumenical Centre.

The WCC was founded in 1948, in the aftermath of the second world war. Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, moderator of the organisation’s central committee, told the service in Saint Pierre that reconciliation was ‘part of the very DNA of the WCC’.

“People came together in Amsterdam in 1948 with a clear purpose of leading the churches of the world together and making them an instrument of peace,” Bishop Heinrich said. “They clearly declared that war is against the will of God and that our task as Christians is exactly to overcome nationalism and other forms of division between peoples, which had just resulted in this terrible world war with so many million victims,”

The cathedral was packed for the commemoration at which its congregation was joined by members of the central committee, currently meeting in Geneva, and ecumenical guests.

Prayers were led by WCC presidents and leadership, as well as cathedral clergy.

The WCC’s general secretary, Rev Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, said: “It is a joy to be with you on this day and especially during this time of praying together at this very special time in the life of this central committee and in the life of the WCC as we celebrate our 75th anniversary.”

The WCC’s 1st Assembly in Amsterdam gathered 351 delegates from 147 churches of different confessions and traditions, including the Church of Scotland. Today the organisation brings together 352 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, and other churches representing more than 580 million Christians in over 120 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

At the celebration in the Ecumenical Centre, the 75th anniversary cake was cut by the longest serving committee member, former deputy general secretary Georges Lemopoulos, and the youngest member of the current committee, Maria Yaziji of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.

In a video message to the celebration, Archbishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK noted that the WCC's journey faces many challenges ‘that can be difficult sometimes’.

"But the rewards, the blessings, the light that we shine into the world, the salt that we can be of the earth, and the example, serving others as our Lord, serve the whole of humankind—all of these things make the World Council of Churches, a wonderful platform for us to come together."

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