Ecumenism

The Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Russia, among other Bishops, met in Turkey and issued an official statement on a resolution to hold a pan-Orthodox council in 2009. The full statement is linked in the title: Worthy of note are their attitudes towards capitalism, nationalism and ecumenism. We are curious as to which “canonical anomalies” they wish to resolve in next year’s meeting:

…The Church of Christ today fulfills it ministry in a rapidly developing world, which has now become interconnected through means of communication and the development of means of transportation and technology. At the same time however, the extent of alienation, divisions and conflicts is also increasing. Christians emphasize that the source of this condition is the alienation of man from God. No change in social structures or of rules of behavior suffices to heal this condition. The Church consistently points out that sin can only be conquered through the cooperation of God and humankind.

5. Under such circumstances, the contemporary witness of Orthodoxy for the ever-increasing problems of humanity and of the world becomes imperative, not only in order to point out their causes, but also in order to directly confront the tragic consequences that follow. The various nationalistic, ethnic, ideological and religious contrasts continuously nurture dangerous confusion, not only in regard to the unquestionable ontological unity of the human race, but also in regard to man’s relationship to sacred creation. The sacredness of the human person is constrained to partial claims for the “individual”, whereas his relationship toward the rest of sacred creation is subjected to his arbitrary use or abuse of it.

These divisions of the world introduce an unjust inequality in the participation of individuals, or even peoples in the goods of Creation; they deprive billions of people of basic goods and lead to the misery for the human person; they cause mass population migration, kindle nationalistic, religious and social discrimination and conflict, threatening traditional internal societal coherence. These consequences are still more abhorrent because they are inextricably linked with the destruction of the natural environment and the entire ecosystem.

6. Orthodox Christians share responsibility for the contemporary crisis of this planet with other people, whether they are people of faith or not, because they have tolerated and indiscriminately compromised on extreme human choices, without credibly challenging these choices with the word of faith. Therefore, they also have a major obligation to contribute to overcoming the divisions of the world.

The Christian teaching about the ontological unity between the human race and sacred creation, as expressed by the entire mystery of the redemptive work in Christ, constitutes the foundation for interpretation of man’s relationship with God and the world.

Efforts to distance religion from societal life constitute the common tendency of many modern states. The principle of a secular state can be preserved; however, it is unacceptable to interpret this principle as a radical marginalization of religion from all spheres of public life.

8. The gap between rich and poor is growing dramatically due to the financial crisis, usually the result of manic profiteering by economic factors and corrupt financial activity, which, by lacking an anthropological dimension and sensitivity, does not ultimately serve the real needs of mankind. A viable economy is that which combines efficacy with justice and social solidarity….

As Primates and the Representatives of the Most Holy Orthodox Churches, fully aware of the gravity of the aforementioned problems, and laboring to confront them directly as “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1), we proclaim from this See of the First-throne among the Churches and we re-affirm:

i) our unswerving position and obligation to safeguard the unity of the Orthodox Church in “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), the faith of our Fathers, in the common Divine Eucharist and in the faithful observance of the canonical system of Church governance by settling any problems that arise from time to time in relations among us with a spirit of love and peace.

ii) our desire for the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements, such as in the so-called Orthodox Diaspora, with a view to overcoming every possible influence that is foreign to Orthodox ecclesiology. In this respect we welcome the proposal by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to convene Panorthodox Consultations within the coming year 2009 on this subject, as well as for the continuation of preparations for the Holy and Great Council. In accordance with the standing order and practice of the Panorthodox Consultations in Rhodes, it will invite all Autocephalous Churches.

iii) our desire to continue, despite any difficulties, the theological dialogues with other Christians, as well as the interreligious dialogues, especially with Judaism and Islam, given that dialogue constitutes the only way of solving differences among people, especially in a time like today, when every kind of division, including those in the name of religion, threaten people’s peace and unity.

iv) our support for the initiatives by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as by other Orthodox Churches, for the protection of the natural environment. Today’s ecological crisis, which is due to both spiritual and ethical reasons, renders imperative the obligation of the Church to contribute through the spiritual means at her disposal, to the protection of God’s creation from the consequences of human greed. In this regard, we reaffirm the designation of the 1st of September, the first day of the Ecclesiastical Year, as the day of special prayers for the protection of God’s creation, and we support the introduction of the subject of the natural environment in the catechetical, homiletic, and general pastoral activity of our Churches, as this is already the case in some.

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October 14, 2008

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