My unity journey

Here’s my experience, which I gave at a meeting of « Charis », the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, on November 2, 2023, in Rome.

I was born into an interdenominational family: my father was a Reformed Protestant from German-speaking Switzerland, while my mother was a Catholic from Ticino in Italian-speaking Switzerland. My first memories of the Church are of the Catholic Mass to which my mother regularly took me. However, I had been baptised in the Reformed Church, in which I received all my religious education until I was confirmed at the age of 16. I became a believer at the age of 20 following a personal ‘road to Damascus’.


I think that a vocation for unity was born at the age of 14, when my Catholic grandmother died. At her funeral mass the Catholic priest refused to give communion to my Catholic mother on the pretext that her husband was a Protestant. This was in 1979.  My mother subsequently did not receive the Eucharist in her Church for years, by personal choice.  It was a great suffering and this event took me further away from the Church and from Christians. And yet, without having felt that pain of division, I would not have worked for Christian unity. In fact, one of my strongest ecumenical experiences was at my mother’s funeral Mass. The first person to whom the priest gave the Eucharist was my father. That touched him very much and brought him closer to the Church.

I became a believer at the age of 20, following a personal ‘road to Damascus’. At that time, I conflicted with a lot of people and had hurt several of them. I had become an atheist, even though I had started studying theology. But I continued to search for God.

One day, at a conference, a word from the Gospel of Jesus pierced my heart. That evening, I got down on my knees and a single word came out of my mouth: « forgive me »! It was the first time I had prayed from the heart. The next day I had a profound experience of the Holy Spirit: in a split second he set my heart on fire and convinced me that God exists and that he is love. When I got home, I said two little words « forgive me » again to the people I had offended.

That day I realised that there can be no unity without union with God and without forgiveness. From then on, I’ve been on my knees as I walk the road to Christian unity!


I was a pastor in different parishes in the Evangelical reformed Church of the canton of Vaud which enabled me to experience a very strong grass-roots ecumenism. Each of the 26 cantons, which makes up the Federal state of Switzerland, has its own ecumenical characteristics. In mine there is a good mix between the Catholic and the Reformed Churches, which are on an equal footing, enriched by the Churches that emerged from the Reformation, as well as the Orthodox Church and Oriental Churches. Also we have various evangelical Churches and movements. You can imagine how they enabled me to have a very strong experience of unity !

For five years I was director of the Swiss Bible Society. In this context, I had some wonderful ecumenical encounters, both nationally and internationally, thanks in particular to two major projects on which I had the opportunity to collaborate. The first was the translation of the Bible into fundamental French. A great collaboration between Catholics and Protestants. 

The second was the School of the Word, which offered Lectio Divina to young people by bringing together youth leaders from Catholic and Protestant churches and evangelical and Pentecostal communities.

Through these projects, I realised that the first form of unity is to live around the Word of God!

My pastoral experience has also been enriched by being a chaplain to a community of sisters of the Reformed Church near Lausanne, where I could live a “spiritual ecumenism”.


In 1994 I became a member of the ecumenical commission of my Church. My mandate was first of all to bring together migrant Churches, and then to create links with and between the other Churches in the canton. On the occasion of the entry into the third millennium, we decided to bring together all the Churches of the canton of Vaud for a major celebration, which took place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

This celebration led to the creation of the Community of Christian Churches in the canton of which I was President and then Executive Secretary for more than 10 years. The celebrations at the Lausanne Cathedral (protestant) continued and became monthly, organised in turn by one of the Churches or by movements. Around 150 celebrations have been held there, which is now open to all Churches. Discovering how Churches pray and listen to the Word of God is a wonderful ecumenical learning experience: « an exchange of gifts » that enriches us all. 


I discovered the Focolare Movement in 1994, during a meeting of the World Council of Churches in Romania. What attracted me to this movement is that Christian unity is placed in the horizon of spirituality and prayer. The practice of the « Word of Life », which consists of meditating on a biblical phrase, living it for a month and sharing how we lived it, immediately appealed to me.  

I also discovered that Mary holds a special place in God’s plan, especially because of her relationship with the Word. Not only did she say « yes » to the Word that was announced to her, but she also lived very closely to the incarnate Word that is Christ.


I retired in May 2020…but I am not retiring! I continue to work for Unity, because for me, Christ’s call to unity is vocation not a job!  

I am currently engaged on different fronts: teaching ecumenism at the Theological High School of French-speaking Switzerland (“HET-PRO”) which is a challenge; I participate also to the Swiss committee of the « Together for Europe » network, which brings together several movements from different denominations with a view to bearing common witness to Jesus Christ in Switzerland and Europe; I’m active in the « Christian Forum » for French-speaking Switzerland (in the spirit of the « Global Christian Forum »); and specially in « JC2033 », an initiative that invites the Churches to prepare together to celebrate the 2000 years of Christ’s resurrection. The preparations include – every year until 2033 – an ecumenical pilgrimage in the Holy Land on the road to Emmaus…the road of resurrection par excellence!

In the Holy Land, my wife Chantal and I also took part in several « Jerusalem Ascents » (“Montées de Jérusalem” in French), a movement born out of the Charismatic Renewal in the 1980s. Thanks to them, I was able to meet Christians from the more recent traditional churches in Jerusalem, as well as Messianic Jews. I realised just how much communion between Jewish believers in the messiahship of Jesus and Christians from the Churches is a magnificent testimony to unity.


As my journey continues I feel that in order for us to move forward on the path of unity, we must always have the courage to return to Christ’s prayer for his disciples before his Passion: « That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me » (Jn 17:21).

We cannot dissociate this prayer from the Cross. If our gaze is not fixed on the Crucified One, we cannot progress either on the spiritual path or on the ecumenical path.  My experience is that if we look to the Crucified One, by living the spirit of the beatitudes that he himself fully embodied, that is, by loving against all odds, as he loved, he will manifest the power of his resurrection.  And the Holy Spirit will lead us forward along paths of unity we could never have imagined!




Étiquettes :