Bishops of Southeastern Europe Put Emphasis on Unity

Express Rejection of Iraqi War

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SHKODER, Albania, MARCH 14, 2003 ( Presidents of the episcopal conferences of the Balkans and southeastern Europe expressed disapproval of all forms of terrorism and the threatening war in Iraq, and appealed for growth in ecumenical dialogue.

At the initiative of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, the bishops, who came from Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania and Turkey, met here from March 10-11.

«The Pope’s urgent call, and the fact of representing a land that has experienced violence in its history,» led the presidents of the bishops’ conferences to stress their rejection of the war in Iraq and to call for fasting and prayer for peace.

The meeting — its host was Metropolitan Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Scutari — focused on the topic «Ecumenism: From Tolerance to Dialogue for Collaboration,» an official statement reported.

Archbishop Stanislaw Hocevar of Belgrade explained that if Christians of southeastern Europe really feel the pain of division and a passion for unity, «they can create schools of reconciliation, which are important for the whole of Europe.»

«It is possible to develop a new doctrine and practice of the spirituality of community, to strengthen the ties among the episcopal conferences of the region, to implement in these nations the commitments of the ‘Charta Oecumenica,’ which the Churches of Europe assumed in April 2001» [see ZENIT, April 23, 2001].

In this context, Archbishop Hocevar added the possibility of rediscovering elements proper to the Eastern tradition, such as the richness of the symbols, the language of art, the sense of the sacred, and the culture inherent in the various languages.

The bishops attending the meeting referred to the «encouraging signs regarding relations between the different churches and communities,» which are «a new hope that persistent problems can be surmounted.»

For example, the conclusive statement mentioned, among other things, John Paul II’s visits to Romania, Greece and Bulgaria, and the reciprocal visits of various delegations as well as the agreement to support Christian values in the construction of Europe.

For his part, Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop Joan Pelushi of Korca, delegate of Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, highlighted the contribution of ecumenism to stability in the Balkans.

The «Charta Oecumenica,» he said, marked a new opening; now «it is a question of translating commitments to reality.»

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