THE NINTH assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) opened in the
Pontifical Catholic University in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Tuesday.
It was the first time the ten-day Assembly had been held in Latin America,
its Moderator, Catholicos Aram I, said when he opened the gathering on Tuesday.
The WCC has 348 member Churches in more than 100 countries, representing 550
million people. The 691 registered delegates, and more than 500 other
representatives will be involved in five plenary sessions, 22 ecumenical
conversations, 90 Bible studies, and 200 workshops. They will review the WCC's
work since the last Assembly, which was in Harare in 1998.
In addition, 2300 people, including many young people, are attending the
associated "Mutirão", a programme of talks and celebrations.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was due to give a keynote address at the
Assembly today on Christian identity and religious pluralism. The Pope
sent his greetings via Cardinal Walter Kasper, saying it was "an exceptional
event for the entire ecumenical movement". He welcomed the special commission
on Orthodox participation. The Cardinal assured hearers that although the Roman
Catholic Church was not a WCC member, "ecumenical involvement is an
The WCC is halfway through its decade to overcome violence, and tomorrow's
plenary "will highlight the spirit and energy unleashed by the WCC Decade", the
programme promised. Next Tuesday, the Assembly will discuss the conference
theme, "God, in your grace, transform the world." It is expected to make
statements on nuclear disarmament, poverty, the UN, terrorism, and water.
It ends on Thursday of next week.