GENEVA (AP) — Pope Francis arrived in Geneva, one of the world’s first cities to adopt the Protestant Reformation, for a one-day visit Thursday to promote his view that Christians, whatever their theological differences, can join forces to work for peace and justice in the world.
Two previous pontiffs have visited the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Francis’ schedule included a lunch with the council’s leadership after an ecumenical prayer service, whose program called for a “prayer for reconciliation and unity” as well as song and reading from Scripture.
The pontiff walked slowly down the steps of the special Alitalia flight that brought him from Rome on what the Vatican described as an “ecumenical” visit. He smiled and shook hands with President Alain Berset and other Swiss officials, and chatted amiably with a girl and a boy, dressed in traditional costumes, and who presented him with bouquets of flowers.
Francis received a red-carpet welcome at the airport in Geneva, known as the “City of Calvin.”
The WCC is a fellowship of 350 churches that aims to show the unity of the Christian faith. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member.
Francis, whose pontificate has seen the Catholic church champion causes of peace and justice, has suggested that Christians can work closely together on humanitarian projects.
For example, the pontiff has been a big booster of efforts by a Rome-based Catholic charity and the Waldensian Evangelical Church to bring Syrian refugees to Italy on special flights known as “humanitarian corridors” so that those fleeing war won’t have to risk their lives at the hands of migrant traffickers.
Frances D’Emilio contributed from Rome