History of European Ecumenical Charter

Outlines Rights and Duties of Churches

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ROME, FEB. 1, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The European Ecumenical Charter originated in a recommendation made at the 1997 Ecumenical Assembly held in Graz, Austria.

Given the difficulties of ecumenical dialogue, it was suggested at Graz that a document be written, which would include fundamental ecumenical rights and duties, in order to deduce from them «a series of directives, rules and criteria, which might help the Churches, their leaders, and all their members to distinguish between proselytism and Christian witness, and between fundamentalism and genuine loyalty to the faith»; and, lastly, «to configure, in the spirit of ecumenism, relations among the majority and minority Churches.»

The plan to write an Ecumenical Charter was assumed during a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Council of European Bishops´ Conferences (CCEE), and the Conference of European Churches (KEK), held in Rome in February 1998. Following the meeting, an ecumenical group began to work on the text.

A larger group, including the addition of 40 experts, met in April 1999. This group´s work resulted in the first draft of the charter. In July 1999, the draft was sent to all the members of CCEE and KEK for review. This process lasted until last September.

A second draft was studied by the Joint Commission from Jan. 26-29 in Porto, Portugal. The document was modified and accepted by all the Christian denominations represented.

A special ceremony to celebrate the agreement on the charter will be held in the Ecumenical Assembly set for April in Strasbourg, France. The document will be signed by Metropolitan Jérémie of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague, Czech Republic, presidents of KEK and CCEE, respectively.

The first ecumenical agreement of the millennium in the European continent coincides with the common celebration of Easter, which, by coincidence of calendars, all Christians will celebrate this year on April 15.

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