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WCC FEATURE: Ecumenism is a way of life

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  • frjohnbrian@priest.com
    World Council of Churches - Feature Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@wcc-coe.org For immediate release - 03/06/2009 16:02:01 ECUMENISM IS A WAY
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2009
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      World Council of Churches - Feature
      Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@... For immediate
      release - 03/06/2009 16:02:01


      By Sara Speicher (*)
      Free photos available, see below

      Sister Pina Sandu says that in her Orthodox monastery, in the mountains of
      Romania, they practise "touristic spirituality".
      With a resort built up around the monastery, "like it or not" the tourists
      "hear the bells, hear the services three times a day. They hear, they feel,
      they know that something is happening." As a result, their curiosity leads
      them into the yard and into the church - "small, sure steps towards
      something beautiful."

      Sister Pina and five other sisters - two each from Orthodox, Roman Catholic,
      and Protestant orders - are providing a similar subtle but radical witness
      at the Ecumenical Institute Bossey outside of Geneva, Switzerland, for
      students and visitors alike.

      The sisters live together, coordinate the worship and prayer life at the
      Ecumenical Institute, participate in classes - and embody a sense of
      "ecumenical spirituality" in daily life.

      Their presence alone, in their striking habits, is noticeable to all who use
      the Institute for meetings and events. Visitors come from church or
      development groups to secular organizations like Rolex or the regional Swiss
      television company, all of whom are invited to take part in the prayer life
      at the Institute.

      But their main role over their year at Bossey is to provide pastoral support
      for the students. Rev. Emmanuel Twahirwa, a graduate student coming from the
      Anglican Church in Rwanda, appreciates their worship facilitation.

      "When you come, you find yourself lost in academic study, you may end up
      forgetting your spiritual life," he says. "We have to balance the two."

      Even more, he appreciates their presence: "Sisters from different
      denominations, living together - it is important for us to learn from them."

      Dealing with the tensions generated in the classroom is one way the sisters
      model ecumenical relationships. Sister Pina describes how after heated
      discussions, they would walk from the classroom to the kitchen for a meal,
      and the sisters would smile and talk.

      "It is a very delicate way of knowing which is the border between academic
      discussion and spiritual relationship or friendship," she emphasizes. "I
      hear about Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants. It is totally different when I
      meet a Catholic, when I meet a Protestant.. The person makes me love what
      the person does."

      The sisters themselves were uncertain how it would work living together.
      Sister Sperancia Mulashani Thadeo, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
      Tanzania, reflected that she had met other Roman Catholic sisters but "could
      not imagine" how it would work living with them. "I thought perhaps they
      would stay in other parts," she says ruefully.

      The reality she found was that it is possible to live together, and the
      "happiest of times is sharing about our life, what we are doing and our
      spiritual life."

      "For us," says Ivy Athipozhiyil, a Dominican sister from India, "ecumenical
      spirituality is living together. We are sharing everything, laughing. This
      we offer, without knowing, to others, like the students. For them it is a

      Their tangible witness is noticed not just by the students.
      Sister Ivy recalls overhearing a member of the Joint Working Group between
      the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, who were
      meeting at Bossey. "One bishop looked at us walking together, and he said
      [to another participant], 'we are talking, talking, talking - and there -
      you see!"

      "What I have realized is that when we talk about unity, it doesn't mean to
      change somebody's faith," states Deaconess Agnes Simbo Lema, from the
      Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. "It means to sit together, to
      share, to love each other and to accept each other."

      Maria Elena Romero Molina, a Missionary Dominican sister from Guatemala,
      states it most simply, "Ecumenism is not a concept. It is a way of life."

      Sister Pina reflects, "The motto of the life and work commission, back then,
      was doctrine divides, service unites."
      Now, she states, "I could say doctrine divides, spirituality unites."

      [640 words]

      (*) Sara Speicher is a freelance writer and former coordinator of the World
      Council of Churches Public Information Team.

      More on ecumenical spirituality:

      Ecumenical Institute Bossey:

      Photo gallery (high resolution versions available upon

      Opinions expressed in WCC Features do not necessarily reflect WCC policy.
      This material may be reprinted freely, providing credit is given to the

      Additional information:Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507
      6363 media@...

      The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and
      service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches
      founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox,
      Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in
      over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
      The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church
      in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
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