Pope Francis has marked 50 years of ecumenical Catholic-Methodist dialogue in a milestone occasion in which the Pope praised the 'grandchildren of the Reformation' who never technically split from Rome.
Francis met on Thursday with leaders of the World Methodist Council in a celebration of more than half a century of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Methodist denomination. This ongoing communication has meant that 'we are no longer strangers', Pope Francis said, but through baptism are 'members of the household of God', according to Vatican Radio.
Likening the occasion to the biblical year of Jubilee in which slaves were set free, the Pope said that 'we too have been freed from the slavery of estrangement and mutual suspicion'.
Among those joining the papal audience was Gillian Kingston, vice-president of the World Methodist Council, who described Methodists – who derive from the Anglican tradition – as the 'grandchildren of the Reformation' and that unlike Lutherans or Anglicans 'we don't have any history, any doctrine, any event' to resolve.
The two groups formed a landmark dialogue partnership with the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission 50 years ago, which Kingston said was 'arguably the first international commission established in the wake of Vatican II' – the historic and most recent ecumenical council of the Catholic Church.
She praised Francis as 'a wonderful leader for people of all faiths and none' and said that Catholics and Methodists had learned much from each other – the former teaching the latter about a wider structure and 'leadership to which all may look', and Methodists teaching Catholics about Scripture and the inclusion of the laity.
Pope Francis pointed to the example of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, and how his preaching and focus on holiness brought many to Christian faith. Seeing the Holy Spirit at work in other traditions, Francis said, 'we cannot fail to rejoice' because they can 'also help us grow closer to the Lord'.
He added that real unity requires action, according to Catholic News Agency: 'This is the journey that awaits us in the new phase of the dialogue, devoted to reconciliation: we cannot speak of prayer and charity unless together we pray and work for reconciliation and full communion.'