The Holy Father said he joins them in their prayer for “the consolidation of the ecumenical spirit among Christians, as well as the growing communion between our Churches.” Pope Francis insists on the urgency of an authentic witness to Christ and the Gospel that is possible only by pursuing a unity of intentions and actions, saying “we are called to continue our commitment on the path of mutual knowledge, understanding, and collaboration, in order to bear witness to Jesus and His Gospel of charity.”
Before offering his blessing to the participants in the Synod, the Pope said that “as disciples of Christ we can offer common responses to the suffering that afflicts so many people, especially the poorest and weakest, and promoting justice and peace.”
The work of the Synod
The Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches was founded in 1975 when the Waldensian Evangelical Church (which dates back to before the Protestant Reformation) merged with the Methodist Evangelical Church in Italy. It numbers approximately 50,000 adherents, with the majority in Italy, and large populations in Argentina and Uruguay.
The Synod began with a worship service during which future ministers, having completed their studies and after a public examination, commit themselves to serve in the Church, and are consecrated with the laying on of hands.
This year’s Synod will address numerous issues, including religious freedom; Church-state relations; social and community commitment; the “Global Diakonia”; human rights; the present and future of the so-called “intercultural generation” and of the local churches; as well as ecumenism and ecumenical dialogue.
At the conclusion of the Synod, a new moderator will be chosen to succeed Eugenio Bernardini. The moderator serves as a presider at the Tavola valdese, the “Waldensian Table”, which represents the Methodist and Waldensian churches in relations with the state and with ecumenical organizations.