St Gallen (Fides Service ) - The Joint Committee of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) met in Kamien Slanski, (archdiocese of Opole) Poland, from 29 January to 1 February at the gracious invitation of Archbishop Alfons Nossol of Opole. Work began with an intense debate on the present ecumenical situation in Europe. The discussion was introduced by Bishop Amédée Grab, President of CCEE, who indicated the challenges the churches face from the multi-religious context and the process of European unification. “A Europe politically united but with divided churches would be intolerable”, he said. However, divisions at a theological level often have their own roots in historical, cultural, jurisdictional, psychological motives. Hence there is a need to increase collaboration and continue dialogue with earnestness and intensity. The path of reconciliation between the churches will be advanced above all by living the Gospel.
Metropolitan Daniel of Moldavia and Bucovina, member of the CEC Presidium, continued the reflection highlighting three chief obstacles to ecumenism today: secularisation, religious fundamentalism and the aggressive proselytism of “sects”. Overcoming controversies by profound co-responsible dialogue and living an authentic spirituality are the two necessary paths for advancing along the ecumenical journey. Metropolitan Daniel concluded by referring to the urgency of unity, saying “Created by God who is a communion of three persons, we can exist only in communion”. The Joint Committee is a sign of hope since it is the only official body where all the traditions of the churches in Europe are represented and so it is called to have a more important role in the ‘reconfiguration’ of the ecumenical structures that is talked about today.
In this spirit the committee began preparation for the Third European Ecumenical Assembly. This will not be a one-off event, but a true process which, for a three-year period (2005-2006-2007), will guide the churches to reflect at local, national, regional and European levels on the theme ‘Christ is the light of the future’ and on the responsibilities and contribution that Christians can bring to Europe today. This path will allow the churches to meet and reflect on the Christian spiritual traditions at the root of Europe and on actual ecumenical experiences. A working group has been given the task of developing the proposal which will be officially presented in the autumn.
In this way the process of the Charta Oecumenica will continue, since it will be the basic guidelines for the path of the Third European Ecumenical Assembly.
Having listened to reports on the fruit of the work of the CCEE-CEC Committee for Relations with Muslims in Europe – which in recent months has published a document on Islamic-Christian dialogue and common prayer – the Joint Committee suggested there should be a broader consultation throughout Europe to ascertain the needs of churches and the Bishops’ Conference so that the committee’s new mandate, beginning in 2005, can reply adequately to the challenges offered by the presence of Islam on our continent.
CEC’s Church and Society Commission and ComECE (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community) outlined the fruit of their contribution to the European Convention and the process of European integration.
The Committee members expressed their satisfaction for what is now contained in Article 51 of the draft constitutional treaty of the European Union (on the juridical recognition of the churches and freedom of religion). The question remains why there is a sort of “allergy” to recognising the historical fact of the presence of Christianity as a constitutive element in the continent’s history. As regards the churches, in order for their contribution to the future of Europe to be effective it is absolutely necessary that they find agreement on themes over which they are still divided today (above all in the fields of ethics and values). (S.L.) (Fides Service 4/2/2004; lines 41; words 544)