Photo credit: Albin Hillert/WCC

As one of the leaders of the World Council of Churches, CST Distinguished Alumna Bishop Mary Ann Swenson met Pope Francis at the WCC Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, in commemoration of the WCC’s 70th anniversary. Bishop Swenson serves as the WCC’s Central Committee co-vice moderator and was part of the top leadership group greeting and escorting the pontiff around the council’s headquarters. At the event, Pope Francis pledged commitment to the cause of Christian unity and spoke about the significance of Catholic involvement in ecumenical work.

He said, “Whenever we say, ‘Our Father,’ we feel an echo within us of our being sons and daughters, but also of our being brothers and sisters. Prayer is the oxygen of ecumenism.”

Bishop Swenson currently serves as president of The United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns (GCCUIC) in addition to her work with the WCC, and she is the UMC’s top representative to the council. Bishop Swenson, now retired, was elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church by the Western Jurisdictional Conference in 1992 and was assigned first to the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, then to the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

According to the WCC website, the historical roots of the WCC were initiated by student and lay movements of the 19th century to develop a kind of League of Nations from a fellowship of churches. The WCC holds its assemblies every six to eight years, with the first assembly taking place in Amsterdam in 1948. This convening in June of 2018 was the 11th Assembly of the WCC.