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«Die Welt war meine Gemeinde»- Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft

A Theologian for Europe between Ecumenism and Federalism


Edited By Filippo Maria Giordano and Stefano Dell'Acqua

Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft (1900–1985), Dutch pastor and theologian, was one of the most significant personalities in the Protestant Ecumenical movement. Deeply influenced by Karl Barth, and filled with a strong Ecumenical spirit, he was closely involved in the founding of the World Council of Churches, of which he was elected General Secretary. During the Second World War, many Protestants became convinced of the need for an international political system which, beside uniting the nations and peoples of Europe, would guarantee them fundamental freedoms and mutual respect for their historical, cultural and confessional traditions.
The directors of the WWC were strongly committed to federalism, partly because of the political traditions of the states from which their member churches originated (Switzerland; Great Britain and its Commonwealth; the United States), and partly because of their conviction that a simple confederation of states, based on the model of the League of Nations, would be completely incapable of containing national ambitions. In spring 1944, Visser ’t Hooft welcomed into his Geneva home the representatives of the European Resistance, who, under the leadership of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, signed the International Federalist Declaration of the Resistance Movements. These historic transnational encounters, aimed not only at coordinating military action or seeking diplomatic contacts but at exploring ways to «build» peace and re-establish the future of the Continent on new foundations, marked a profound break with the past.
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“Die Welt war meine Gemeinde”



Philosophical-(Cosmo)political Remarks in Relation to Willem Adolph Visser ’t Hooft’s Thought and Works

Barbara HENRY*

“The whole world is within us.”Lao Tzu

Some introductory reflections should inevitably be made which are neither historico-political, nor biographical, nor doctrinal1, but rather philosophico-political and, albeit I state this with some hesitance, even theological. This expression of reticence, however slight, stems from the fact that these theological profiles of interpretation have already been addressed by people who are far more experienced than myself, profiles which are inherent in the heart and raison d’être of our focus on Willem Adolph Visser ’t Hooft’s life and thought.

The first session of the conference that gave rise to this volume was aptly entitled “Visser ’t Hooft and the Religious, Cultural and Political Debate on Europe Between the Two Wars”, a choice that reflected the conference’s noble reconstructive and historico-biographical focus. That said, for theoretical reasons that will soon be apparent, it is equally true that further examining the interwoven meanings in the biographical wording Die Welt war meine Gemeinde is the first of several element that helps account for the overall interpretive aim of this joint undertaking. The latter is much more ambitious and ideal-oriented since it relates to the life maxims of the subject of our analysis and attention.

The first section necessarily and briefly focuses on the first of the two terms Welt or world, which in its religious-pastoral...

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