Pope to travel to Switzerland, visit World Council of Churches office
Visit to WCC headquarters in Geneva is believed to be the main focus of the one-day papal trip June 21.
Pope Francis will travel to the Swiss city of Geneva early this summer for a visit to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), according to reports in Switzerland.
The pope is expected to arrive in Geneva on June 21 and is to be welcomed by a government delegation led by Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset who will hold official talks with him, the Swiss government confirmed Feb. 28, according to Swiss News Agency.
But the visit to WCC headquarters is believed to be the main focus of the one-day papal trip.
The Vatican is expected to confirm the visit at a press conference on Friday when Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC secretary general, will highlight initiatives to mark the World Council of Church's 70th anniversary.
The June 21 papal trip would coincide with the final day of the weeklong, biennial meeting of the WCC’s Central Committee.
The WCC was established in 1948, with its Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox and Old Catholic traditions members spread across 348 churches in 110 countries. The World Council of Churches was founded with the aim of fostering unity in fellowship, service and mission.
Although the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, it is in official dialogue with it and often cooperates in various programs.
Pope Francis, the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years, will be the second pope in recent times to visit Switzerland.
The past pope to visit Switzerland was Pope John Paul II who visited Bern in 2004, a year before he died. At that time, some 70,000 attended the Mass conducted in German. That was Pope John Paul’s second visit to Switzerland, having visited various international organizations in Geneva in 1982.
Of the 8.3 million people in Switzerland, 38 percent identify as Roman Catholic and 27 percent belong to the Protestant church.
Foreign relations between the Holy See and Switzerland are among the oldest bilateral diplomatic relations. A special group of Swiss soldiers known as the Pontifical Swiss Guard is tasked with protecting the pope.
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