On February 16, the Right Rev. John Chalmers, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, also known as The Kirk, met with the Pope at the Vatican to discuss the relationship of the two churches. The two leaders overcame their sectarian differences to acknowledge dire situations facing the global church right now, specifically the recent killing of Christians in Libya, and shootings in Denmark.
"We shared our concerns over the terrible attacks at the weekend and spoke of our joint belief in the power of co-operation against a background of challenge and increasing radicalization in the
world.” Chalmers said following the meeting.
According to Chalmers, they also spoke about their shared concern about climate change, a crisis that he calls “the most pressing issue in human history,” and that he believes affects the world’s poor most profoundly.
In his address to the Moderator of the Kirk in a private audience, Pope Francis called for greater unity between the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as between all Christians globally.
He expressed that “The present state of ecumenical relations in Scotland clearly shows that what we, as Christians, hold in common is greater than all that divides us. On this basis the Lord is calling us to seek ever more effective ways to overcome old prejudices and to find new forms of understanding and cooperation.”
The pope continued, explaining how important it is for Christians to come together in the face of events such as modern terrorism. He expressed his hopefulness of the power of unified Christians, stating, “In our globalized and often confused world, a common Christian witness is a necessary requisite for the effectiveness of our efforts to evangelize.”
He closed by calling all of the faithful to action because, he said, it is “only by working together will we be able effectively to serve the human family and enable the light of Christ to reach every dark corner of our hearts and of our world.”
Chalmers said following the meeting that ecumenical relations between the two churches "have never been more cordial and productive.” As a sign of the improving relationship between the two groups, Chalmers expressed his desire for the Pope to visit Scotland, saying: “We agreed to work for peace through our common faith and I expressed a hope that a pastoral visit by His Holiness to Scotland would be appreciated by all faiths."
The Pope’s own closing appeal seemed to echo a similar desire for a continued relationship: “May the journey of reconciliation and peace between our communities continue to draw us closer, so that, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we may bring life to all, and bring it in abundance,” he said.
Chalmers also presented the Pope with a glass Dove of Peace, made by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. The glass used to construct the piece was gathered from broken bottles and glass found at bombsites, to symbolize how even that which seems hopeless can be recovered and transformed.