From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC NEWS: Samuel Kobia pays tribute to Pope John Paul II

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Sun, 03 Apr 2005 11:42:20 +0200

World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
For immediate release: 3 April 2005


Cf. also WCC Press Release of 2 April 2005

The full text of the tribute paid by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel
Kobia to Pope John Paul II, highlighting some of the specific achievements
of his pontificate, is given below.

Pope John Paul II has been among the most outstanding personalities during
these last decades, with an impact far beyond the Roman Catholic Church
and the Christian community world-wide. During his pontificate, the Roman
Catholic Church affirmed its universal vocation and strengthened its
internal coherence. His commitment to social justice and reconciliation,
to human rights and the dignity of the human person, as well as to
Christian unity and inter-religious understanding, will be gratefully

We recall with warm feelings the visit John Paul II paid to the WCC
headquarters, early in his pontificate in 1984, where we shared a worship
service at the chapel of the Ecumenical Centre and prayed together for
full communion among Christians. He was not only following the steps of
his predecessor Paul VI, who had visited the WCC in 1969, but also
expressing his own commitment to the one ecumenical movement.

Karol Wojtyla, born in Wadowice, Poland, on 18 May 1920, was elected pope
in 1978. During his pontificate, through his extensive travels, the ad
limina visits, his impressive body of writings and by purposefully using
church structures (e.g., the synods of bishops), he sought to bring
cohesion and coherence to the Roman Catholic Church.

In the first half of his pontificate, John Paul II focused on the
situation of people living under communist rule. With a combination of
quiet diplomacy and strong denunciation, he developed an ecclesial and
political "Ostpolitik" and strengthened those taking a stand against
Marxist ideology, particularly in his native Poland. During this period,
an intentional focus on human rights (particularly in Redemptor hominis)
and religious liberty provided a strong basis for challenging Marxist
ideology and communist practice.

During the second half of his reign, Pope John Paul II sought to challenge
the predominant values in Western culture, to question what he saw as
permissive trends in human sexuality, and to affirm "the culture of life"
over and against "the culture of death". This was most evident in the
various social encyclicals published during his time - Laborem Exercens,
Solicitudo Rei Socialis and Centessimus Annus. In this restatement and
development of Roman Catholic social thought, he was able to initiate a
dialogue on appropriate structures and foundations for human life in

The systematic examination of major features of the Christian faith, and
of the issues facing the church throughout the world also demonstrated
John Paul II's concern for affirming the central truths of the faith and
the Roman Catholic Church . This was evident in the publication of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the issuing of a number of doctrinal
instructions. (e.g., Ad Tuendam Fidem).

Having consciously adopted the name John Paul on his election to office,
Karol Wojtyla was not simply seeking to honour his immediate predecessor,
but to continue and complete the reforming work of Pope John XXIII and
Paul VI. In his work, therefore, he also sought to promote relations with
other Christian churches and engage in the search for Christian unity with

An immediate concern was rapprochement with the Orthodox churches, and he
constantly sought to strengthen and develop the bonds between the
"successors" of the brothers Andrew and Peter. In his visits throughout
the world, Pope John Paul II took every opportunity to meet with leaders
of other churches and to encourage his Roman Catholic colleagues to engage
fully in local ecumenical initiatives and councils.

Of particular interest is his attempt to offer a vision of unity; his
encyclical Ut Unum Sint draws on the insights and experiences of Roman
Catholic involvement in the ecumenical movement, and offers substantial
reflections on the nature of dialogue and unity. Indeed, this encyclical
is unusual in citing reports from the wider ecumenical movement - notably
that of the WCC Faith and Order Commission.

To further the moves towards unity, John Paul II in the Encyclical invited
other churches to reflect with him on the role and structure of the
Petrine ministry as a servant of Christian unity; he also invited his
church to apologize for the sins committed during its history which
contributed towards division. This was most evident during the Millennium
Celebrations in Rome on 13 March, 2000, when he sought forgiveness from
other churches for sins committed against them by representatives of the
Roman Catholic Church.

As Bishop of Rome, the Pope initiated a series of events and reflections
on the work and being of the Holy Trinity to celebrate the 2000th
anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. This drew Christians of
different churches in all parts of the world into an intentional ecumenical process at local and international level and provided encouragement for
local ecumenism.

Efforts were also made to seek dialogue with people of other faiths. On
two occasions at Assisi, the Pope invited leaders of the major world
religions to join him to pray for world peace - in 1986 , and in January
2002 (the latter in the light of the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001
on the United States and the subsequent actions) - and to promote a
culture of peace to counter the prevailing culture of war.

His strong proclamations and actions for peace, particularly in the two
Gulf wars and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have been particularly
important. By lifting up this common concern of churches worldwide and the
ecumenical movement as a whole, he strengthened the voices of Christians
everywhere working to overcoming injustice and promote lasting peace.

The pontificate of John Paul II has bridged in a courageous way a period
of profound changes and transformations in the church and in the world. A
new era and a new millennium have begun, which will require fresh
responses in the Roman Catholic Church and in the ecumenical movement.

- - -

Photos of the visit of Pope John Paul II to the World Council of Churches
are available at:

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

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 347, in
more than 120 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly,
which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally
inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by
general secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist church in Kenya.

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