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Christians Of Europe Sign Ecumenical Charter

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    CHRISTIANS OF EUROPE SIGN ECUMENICAL CHARTER Blagovest-info/Sobornost, 26 April 2001 An unprecedented ecumenical meeting concluded in Strasbourg last Sunday
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 28, 2001
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      Blagovest-info/Sobornost, 26 April 2001

      An unprecedented ecumenical meeting concluded in Strasbourg last Sunday
      with the solemn signing of the Ecumenical Charter (Charta Oecumenica). The
      ceremony of signing of the Ecumenical Charter was held 22 April in the St.
      Thomas Lutheran church.

      The document was signed by the president of the Conference of European
      Churches (CEC), Orthodox Metropolitan Jeremiah (of the Constantinople
      patriarchate) and the president of the Catholic Council of Bishops'
      Conferences of Europe (CBCE), Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of Prague.

      After signing the charter the presidents of the two largest Christian
      associations of Europe invited all European churches and bishops'
      conferences "to adopt and adapt" this document to the specific conditions
      of each society. After prayer, which was delivered by Metropolitan
      Jeremiah, and reading of the Bible, which Cardinal Vlk did, both bishops
      distributed to all present copies of the charter in English, French,
      German, and Italian.

      The signing of the charter was preceded by an ecumenical worship service in
      the same church of St. Thomas, which was led by a woman Lutheran pastor
      from Germany, Ruth Rohrandt, vice president of CEC, and the French Cardinal
      Roger Etchegaray, who headed the Vatican's organizing committee for conduct
      of the jubilee year 2000, who previously had been the chairman of the papal
      council "Justice and Peace."

      The Ecumenical Charter defines a policy of cooperation of Christian
      churches from Europe of twelve denominations. This includes striving for
      the achievement of "visible unity" of the church, evangelistic activity in
      Europe, support for the processes of integration on the continent, activity
      aimed at gaining for women equal rights with men "in all spheres of life,"
      struggle for preserving the environment, resistance to antisemitism, as
      well as dialogue with other religions, particularly Islam. The charter was
      composed as the outcome of a two-year-long consultation that began some
      time after the ecumenical meeting in Graz, Austria, in 1997.

      The final text was approved in January of this year at a session of the
      joint committee of representatives of CEC and CBCE, although, as leaders of
      both these organizations noted, the charter "does not have a confessional
      or doctrinal character nor does it have binding force within canon law. Its
      authority will depend on the voluntary obligations of European churches and
      ecumenical organizations."

      At the same time a number of European churches, including the Russian
      Orthodox church, expressed reservations regarding a number of provisions of
      this document. On the eve of signing the charter a worker of the Department
      of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate (OVSTs MP), Deacon
      Andrei Yliseev, stated in an interview with ENI, the news agency of the
      World Council of Churches, that this document can turn out to be "harmful
      and unproductive" for ecumenical dialogue and, besides, lead to "new
      divisions" among Christians. Andrei Yeliseev told reporters that he
      informed the central committee of CEC of the position of his church,
      expressing its disagreement "with both form and contents" of the Ecumenical
      Charter. RPTs expresses special concern, in Fr Andrei's words, with
      paragraphs of the charter which speak of a movement for achieving "visible
      unity of the Church of Jesus Christ in a united faith." According to the
      deacon, this passage contradicts the declaration on principles of
      interchurch relations adopted by the bishops' council of RPTs in August of
      last year.

      In the opinion of OVTsS MP, the second version of the draft contains "many
      ideas and practical and theological positions which do not take into
      account the current state of the ecumenical movement and inter-Christian
      dialogue." Moreover, the Moscow patriarchate thinks, the text of the
      charter can evoke serious criticism within a number of churches and thus
      bring harm to cooperation of Christians in future.

      In light of all that has been said, RPTs views the signing of the charter
      by Metropolitan Jeremiah and Cardinal Vlk solely as an "act of their own
      personal volition and convictions and not as the position of their churches
      as a whole and the Russian Orthodox church in particular."

      In commenting on the position of his church, Fr Andrei Yeliseev stressed
      that the Moscow patriarchate by no means disapproves of the idea of the
      charter as such, but advocates further clarification of a number of its

      Among protestant confessions expressing reservations about the Ecumenical
      Charter is the Evangelical Lutheran church of Denmark.

      (tr. by PDS, posted at http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/ on
      28 April 2001)
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