With a grand ceremonial act at the Basel Minster, 650 guests celebrated the first gathering of the Protestant Churches of Europe in Switzerland. With its member churches, the “Community of Protestant Churches in Europe” CPCE represents the interests of roughly 50 million people from over 30 countries. While the affirmation of unity and peace was the focus of the historic gathering, an official dialogue between the European Protestants and the Vatican was established when CPCE President Gottfried Locher and Curial Cardinal Kurt Koch signed a joint declaration of intent. The historic event was also attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis.
Since its inception in 1973, the CPCE has been bridging the centuries-long schism between Reformed and Lutheran churches. Now, for the first time in 45 years, the Protestants of Europe gathered to meet in Switzerland. This assembly of the CPCE with its nearly 100 Lutheran, Reformed, United and Methodist member churches is a singular event for Switzerland.
For CPCE President Gottfried Locher, “Unity in Diversity” is still the CPCE’s core tenet. He said that unity was needed more than ever to meet the challenges facing Europe. “We need the strong and unified voice of the Protestant Churches in Europe – for more justice and peace.”
CPCE starts groundbreaking dialogue with the Vatican
Founded on the conviction that this notion of necessary unity must be expanded, CPCE President Gottfried Locher and Curial Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Roman Catholic Church’s chief ecumenist, signed a joint declaration of intent to establish an official dialogue between the Vatican and the CPCE in the course of the gathering. This act marks the first time the European Protestants as a unified whole enter into a dialogue with the Vatican, enabling the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches to address key issues such as the controversial and crucial question of shared Communion.
Foreign Affairs Minister Cassis emphasizes Switzerland’s traditional Good Offices in bridging conflicts
Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis, who delivered a message of greeting by the Swiss Federal Council, said, in an informal statement during the signing event: “This is an important step, also because in the past, the focus has not always been on unifying elements, but on separating aspects.” He added that this was an encouraging sign for a country such as Switzerland, which can look back on a long tradition of Good Offices, i.e., of acting as a mediator between other states or organizations. “Because this means that Switzerland can make a contribution not only when it comes to solving political conflicts.” Basel is the perfect location for overcoming differences, Federal Councilor Cassis stated: “In this city, Christian tradition and openness have created a demonstrably excellent framework for cooperation and coexistence, and also for tolerance, responsibility and the freedom of every human being.”