300 denominations meet for ecumenical gathering in Munich

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who attended the ecumenical gathering in MunichReuters

Some 1,700 Christians from around 300 denominations have met in Munich for a 'Together in Europe' gathering of the Ecumenical Congress promoting unity between Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals.

In a meeting supported by Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, leaders of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, several Orthodox Churches, Protestant denominations and free evangelical denominations including some Baptists and Pentecostals debated for three days about how to walk towards "encounter, reconciliation and hope in a better future."

Among the speakers were the German Catholic Cardinal Walter Kasper, Evangelical Protestant Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm and German Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Hartmut Steeb. Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople sent video messages to the meeting.

"We want to contribute towards reconciliation of Christians and of Churches," the organisers said on their website. "Through our witness of unity and reconciliation we also hope to impact on society as a whole. We want to encourage all people of our time to respond with a decisive and hopeful yes for going ahead together and overcoming barriers among people, nations, social and cultural groups."

The Congress finished with an open air rally attended by around 5,000 people under the banner: "500 years of division is enough – unity is possible". German YMCA leader Gerhard Pross said: "The division amongst Christians in Europe is a wound, but it does not have to be open forever...500 years are enough."