Catholic-Orthodox Cooperation Advances

President of COMECE Visits Istanbul and Sofia

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HILDESHEIM, Germany, FEB. 20, 2001 ( A new phase in cooperation between Churches in the East and West is under way.

Bishop Josef Homeyer, the president of the Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), said a new phase was agreed to at a meeting by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey, over the weekend. Bishop Homeyer made his comments Monday on his return to Hildesheim.

He said he now expects more intensive cooperation between the Orthodox Churches in Central and Eastern Europe and the Catholic Church.

Bishop Homeyer emphasized the importance of the Orthodox voice in Europe: «Europe will only have a future if both lungs, the Western and the Eastern, are healthy and breathe together,» he said.

During the meeting, Patriarch Bartholomew underlined the great interest of the Orthodox Church in working together to shape Europe´s future and in taking common positions with the Catholic Church and the Reformed churches, particularly in relation to ethical issues.

As the next concrete step, the two Church leaders agreed on a conference of Catholic and Orthodox bishops to discuss European issues on which the two Churches could cooperate.

Before his trip to Istanbul, Bishop Homeyer met with the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Maxim in Sofia. Patriarch Maxim also made clear his Church´s readiness to play a part in the future shape of Europe, and to seek common positions with Churches of the West. Bishop Homeyer also held a cordial talk in Sofia with the great mufti of Bulgaria, Selim Mumin Mehmet, who raised the question of the importance of religions in a unified Europe.

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