Pope speaks to Methodists, calls for unity

Pope Francis gestures during a meeting with the media on board the papal plane while en route to Rome.Reuters

The Pope has said Catholics and Methodists have much to learn from each other – while acknowledging there is much on which they do not agree.

Francis was speaking at the Vatican after welcoming members of the World Methodist Council, the Methodist Council of Europe and the Methodist Church in Britain. They were in town to attend a ceremony celebrating the opening of the new Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome.

Reflecting on discussions over unity which have taken place recently the Pope said: "Almost 50 years have passed since our joint commission began its work. Although differences remain, ours is a dialogue based on respect and fraternity."

He went on to quote the founder of Methodism. "John Wesley, in his Letter to a Roman Catholic, wrote that Catholics and Methodists are called to "help each other on in whatever...leads to the Kingdom...if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike".

Dialogue between Methodists and the Catholics isn't the only ecumenical discussion happening at the moment. The Pope has held discussions with Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Pentecostal leaders. However, there is no immediate prospect of formal unity between them as theologians grapple with the doctrinal differences between the Churches.

The Pope said: "It is true that we do not as yet think alike in all things and that on issues regarding ordained ministries and ethics, much work remains to be done. However, none of these differences constitute such an obstacle as to prevent us from loving in the same way and offering a common witness to the world. Our lives of holiness must always include a loving service to the world; Catholics and Methodists together are bound to work in different ways in order to give concrete witness to the love of Christ. When we serve those in need, our communion grows."