Catholics, Orthodox Share Secularization Concerns

Affirm Duty to Awaken Consciences

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RHODES, Greece, OCT. 27, 2010 ( Representatives from both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Europe are sharing concerns about the secularization of society.

The warned about the dangers derived from a secularized society, «without points of moral reference and without a plan worthy of the human person,» in a final communiqué of the 2nd Catholic Orthodox Forum.

The forum took place Oct. 18-22 in Rhodes, on the theme «Church-State Relations: Theological and Historical Perspectives.»
It was presided over by Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and by Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE). Some 17 delegates from the council participated, and as many other representatives of the Orthodox Churches.
The participants affirmed, «It is not possible to lay the foundations of coexistence without establishing a relationship with the objective reality of the human being, with the need to be open to the whole reality in which he is integrated, which is not just reduced to the quest for material well-being, but which includes the search for the meaning of life through a never ending spiritual quest.»
They added, «The image of the human being that is projected in public speeches and in the media is often foreign to the quest for truth, while the satisfaction of subjective desires is valued exclusively.»
«The juridical order on which states are erected and, hence, relations between citizens, cannot depend on people’s changing opinions, or on the action of pressure groups,» the communiqué stated.

It stressed that this order «must be based on intangible human values,» that are «innate to the human being» and «preceding the law and the state.»
The Forum addressed some topics in particular: the Church-state relationship from the theological and historical point of view, the way in which Churches live their relations with the state; the common good and the service/diakonia of the Church to society.
The communiqué noted that in Europe the system of separation with cooperation between the Church and the state is the most widespread.
It added that this separation must be understood «as separation of the political and religious fields, and not in the sense of a reciprocal ignorance, impossible to apply.»

Harmonious cooperation

«Independence and reciprocal autonomy must allow for a specific and harmonious cooperation between the two institutions,» the participants stated.
In this context, they added, the Churches «wish to participate more actively in the ethical and moral debates that affect the future of society.»
The participants affirmed, «It seems important to us to confirm that our countries of Europe cannot break off their Christian roots without destroying themselves and that the ethical challenges are determinant for our future in a globalized world.»
«The Churches have the duty to awaken consciences,» they asserted, «and to defend the dignity of the human person created in the image of God,» confirming in particular «the right to conscientious objection for medical staff, whom no one can oblige to practice abortion or euthanasia.»
The communiqué particularly mentioned «the notable differences» existing between the Churches in regard to their material conditions of life:» Some «are financed with state money, others have a system of ecclesiastical tax imposed by law, others take recourse exclusively to the donations of the faithful.»
It acknowledged that «in some countries of Europe, the Churches continue to wait for the restitution of the goods that were confiscated by the Communist regime, something that would enable them to fulfill their pastoral, charitable and social mission.»
Finally, the forum participants insisted on liberty of education, affirming that the duty of education belongs to parents.

They stated that the Church «has the constitutive right to offer an education that is in conformity with the Christian principles of the families that have requested it.»
The 3rd Catholic Orthodox Forum will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2012.

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