METHODISTS and Roman Catholics are “truly brothers and sisters”, Pope Francis has said after a new ecumenical office was opened in Rome by the Methodist Church.
Speaking on Thursday of last week, the Pope welcomed Methodist representatives from Britain and the World Methodist Council, and said that the new office showed the two Churches’ “growing closeness”.
“It is a sign of our growing closeness, and particularly of our shared desire to overcome all that stands in the way of our full communion,” the Pope told the audience at a reception in the Vatican.
The Methodist Ecumenical Office of Rome, located just across the river Tiber from St Peter’s Basilica, seeks to increase other Christians’ understanding of Methodist Churches around the world, as well as host ecumenical discussions.
Clear theological differences still needed to be bridged between RCs and Methodists, Pope Francis said, but progress was being made.
“Catholics and Methodists have much to learn from one another in how we understand holiness, and how it can be lived out,” he said. “Even where differences remain between our communities, these can and must become the impetus for reflection and dialogue.”
The secretary of the British Methodist Conference, the Revd Gareth Powell, told Pope Francis that Methodists were particularly enthused by his Year of Mercy initiative.
“The proclamation of the mercy of a loving God stands at the heart of all that John Wesley, our founder, stood for,” he said.
“Your call to a renewed understanding of God’s mercy is one that must surely find expression in our common endeavours. We pray that together we may find a deeper sense of our shared calling.”
The joint RC-Methodist dialogue commission first began deliberations 50 years ago, and its members will shortly release their latest document, The Call to Holiness.
Quoting John Wesley, Pope Francis concluded: “‘If we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike.’ None of [our] differences constitute such an obstacle as to prevent us from loving in the same way and offering a common witness to the world.”