With more than 4,000 participants from over 352 churches, the World Council of Churches’ assembly began on Wednesday, August 31.

And the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement are being well-represented at the 11th installment of the gathering, which is taking place in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Vicar General Father Jim Loughran, SA, and Dr. Aaron Hollander, associate director of the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute are in attendance.

The theme of this year’s assembly, which runs through September 8, is “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” Convening typically once every eight years, the World Council of Churches assembly is a time for member churches and ecumenical partners to stand witness to tangible Christian unity, while deepening their commitment to Jesus’ prayer that “all may be one.” It is deemed as the most diverse Christian gathering of its size in the world.

A press conference kicked off the assembly on Wednesday, according to Father Jim. Council leaders, as well as the Mayor of Karlsruhe, spoke about their expectations for the assembly. Father Jim added that acting General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Ioan Sauca, observed Russian and Ukrainian young people eating and conversing among one another, despite ongoing conflict between their countries.

“He has hope that the assembly will serve as a safe space for dialogue, as hard as it will be,” Father Jim said.

An ecumenical youth gathering closed out the first day of the assembly, with over 200 young people from all corners of the world participating. Each engaged in prayer and reflection at St. Stephen Church in Karlsruhe.

You can follow the events of the assembly online by clicking here.