Eastern Orthodox commit to overcome a series of religious tensions

Eastern Orthodox commit to overcome a series of religious tensions

By agency reporter
15 Oct 2008

Patriarchs, primates and representatives of Eastern Orthodox churches recommitted themselves to overcome intra-Orthodox conflicts as well as to continue theological dialogues with Christians from other confessions at a 10-12 October meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

"Overcoming the internal conflicts of the Orthodox Church through the surrendering of nationalistic, ethnic and ideological extremes of the past" is a requisite for the "word of Orthodoxy [to] have a necessary impact on the contemporary world," reads a message issued at the end of the meeting.

The message also affirms the participants' "desire to continue, despite any difficulties, the theological dialogues with other Christians, as well as the interreligious dialogues, especially with Judaism and Islam".

Fourteen patriarchs, primates and representatives of Eastern Orthodox churches gathered in the Phanar, the see of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The meeting took place at the invitation and under the presidency of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew - the "first among us," according to the message.

"This has been an extremely important event in the life of the Orthodox church," said the World Council of Churches (WCC) deputy general secretary Georges Lemopoulos. "The message, calling mainly for inter-orthodox unity and collaboration, and spelling out an 'Orthodox agenda' as a witness to the world, has a significant ecumenical dimension and will certainly impact the work of the ecumenical movement," added Lemopoulos, an Orthodox layman from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Addressing some of the issues making headlines these days, the message linked the current financial crisis to "manic profiteering" and "corrupt financial activity", while calling for a "viable economy" able to combine "efficacy with justice and social solidarity".

Regarding the conflict between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway South Ossetia region, the Orthodox leaders commended both Orthodox churches for "their fraternal cooperation" and hoped that their "efforts will contribute to overcoming the tragic consequences of military operations and [to] the swift reconcilement of the peoples".

The meeting's message condemns the "unjust inequality" in the sharing of "the goods of Creation" by "individuals, or even peoples" as a consequence of "nationalistic, ethnic, ideological and religious" divisions. The results are wanton: billions of people deprived of basic goods; mass migration; nationalistic, religious and social discrimination and conflicts; and destruction of the natural environment and the entire ecosystem.

As Orthodox Christians "share responsibility for the contemporary crisis of this planet," they also have "a major obligation to contribute to overcoming the divisions of the world," the message states.

Participants at the gathering welcomed "the proposal by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene Pan-Orthodox Consultations within the coming year" in order to address jurisdictional and other issues that have "arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements, such as in the so-called Orthodox Diaspora".

The Orthodox leaders also welcomed "the continuation of preparations for the Holy and Great Council". Preparations towards a major conciliar event of the Orthodox churches took place at the end of the seventies and in the eighties but slowed down when changes in Eastern Europe created new pastoral needs and ecclesial challenges within the Orthodox world.

The message has been signed by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Moscow, the primates of the churches of Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania, and the Czech Lands and Slovakia, as well as representatives of the churches of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia.

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