The cross is not just a sign of religious identitybut a “reality check” for both the churches and the ecumenical movement, said Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit at a service in Geneva marking his installation as general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

A Norwegian pastor and theologian, Tveit, 49, was elected as the WCC’s 7th general secretary in August 2009 and began his term on 1 January 2010.

“Seen in the perspective of the resurrection”, Tveit said, “the cross becomes the sign of God’s victory over sin and evil” and of “God’s unconditional love to all human beings”. It is also at the root of any possible Christian unity: “We are one as Christians because we receive the same gift” of God’s “being with us and for us” through the cross.

“How shall we, then, best give shape to the ecumenical movement of the cross in our time?” Tveit wondered. “And how can the ecumenical movement be a movement of the cross – the tree of life?”

Following early teachers of the church, Tveit suggested that “when Christ stretches out his arms at the cross, he is stretching out to the whole world, embracing everybody”. The uniqueness of the cross “is precisely that it is inclusive”, he said.

For Tveit, the call of the ecumenical movement goes beyond successes and failures. “Whether we are heard or not, our call is to carry the cross with one another”. This may entail walking in the shoes of the poor and oppressed, suffering distress when agreements are not reached, overcoming disappointment when problems are not solved.

• Full story at the World Council of Churches.