Pope Francis on Friday met with a delegation in the Vatican from the World Council of Churches telling them, they had "contributed greatly to making all Christians aware that our divisions represent a serious obstacle to the witness of the Gospel in the world and also thanking them for their work in support of Christian unity.

Below please find the English language translation of the Pope's words to the WCC.

Dear Friends from the World Council of Churches,

I wish all of you a warm welcome and I thank Doctor Tveit for his words to me on your behalf. This meeting marks one more stage, an important one, in the long-standing and fruitful relationship between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. The Bishop of Rome is grateful to you for the work you are doing in support of Christian unity.

From its inception, the World Council of Churches has contributed greatly to making all Christians aware that our divisions represent a serious obstacle to the witness of the Gospel in the world. We cannot be resigned to these divisions as if they were merely an inevitable part of the historical experience of the Church. If Christians ignore the call to unity which comes to them from the Lord, they risk ignoring the Lord himself and the salvation he offers through his Body, the Church: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name … by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Relations between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches, developing since the Second Vatican Council, have brought us to a sincere ecumenical cooperation and to an ever increasing “exchange of gifts” between the different communities by overcoming mutual misunderstanding. The path to full and visible communion is still today an uphill struggle. The Spirit encourages us, however, not to be afraid, not to allow ourselves to be satisfied with the progress we have made in recent decades, but to move forward in trust.

Prayer is fundamental on this journey. Only with a spirit of humble and unceasing prayer will we be able to have the necessary foresight, discernment and motivation to serve the human family in all its struggles and needs, both spiritual and material.

Dear brothers and sisters, I assure you of my prayers that during your meeting with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity it will be possible to find the most effective way for us to advance together on this path. May the Spirit of the Lord sustain every one of you and your families, your colleagues at the World Council of Churches and all those who have the cause of Christian unity at heart. Pray also for me that the Lord may permit me to be a docile instrument of his will and a servant of unity. May the peace and grace of the Lord accompany all of you.

Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”, focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations. They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent action on climate change.

The Geneva based World Council of Churches is a fellowship of 345 member churches from over 110 different countries. In his words to the general secretary Pope Francis thanked the organisation for its work over the past half century in “overcoming mutual misunderstanding” and promoting “sincere ecumenical cooperation”. If Christians ignore the call to unity which comes from the Lord, he said, “they risk ignoring the Lord himself.” Though the road to unity is still an uphill struggle, he said, the Spirit encourages us to move forward in trust.

Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Rev Fykse Tveit to find out more about their conversation and about their shared vision for the future of the ecumenical movement…..

“It was a very good conversation….I responded to what we understand is his vision of how the Church shall serve the needs of the world, sharing the Gospel, being together in doing this, but also how we shall address the issues of justice and peace in the world together…..I shared our vision as WCC and also my personal understanding and commitment to what it means to work for justice and peace as a Christian…..we recognize that we have, in many ways, the same perspectives but also the same spirit….

There is no doubt about his commitment to unity….what he said and what I said is that there are new opportunities for Christian unity today, particularly how we serve the world together and we should focus on how we can do that…..he was interested in particular issues I raised with him about the Middle East, about peace in Korea, our work for economic justice and for the environment….

[on Korean reconciliation]We are working on another meeting between participants from North and South Korea, to happen in Geneva before the summer…..I’m going to visit South Korea in April to discuss this…..it’s very important for us to see how the Churches can bring another vision on how things can change….the expectations from the Korean Churches are quite significant….

[on 10th Assembly in Busan] I think we realized we cannot divide the ecumenical movement into those who are evangelicals, those who are ecumenical, those who work for unity, those who work for mission, those who work for justice….it belongs together in a very strong way…and this was what we confirmed in the conversation today with his Holiness….

[on climate change] I referred to the call of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum in January this year when he called governments, the business sector and the civil sector – including religious leaders – to bring something new, to really make changes in how we give priority to the environment…..we believe it’s time to call other religious leaders to a summit, the day before the summit that Ban Ki-moon has called for heads of state in September in New York, and the Pope was apparently supporting this idea very strongly…”