Annual Congress on Orthodox Spirituality Focuses on Creation

Papal Message Notes Hope for Joint Commitment to Protect God’s Gift

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ROME, SEPT. 6, 2012 ( «Man, the Custodian of Creation» is the theme of the 20th International Ecumenical Congress of Orthodox Spirituality, which began Wednesday in the Italian monastery of Bose. 

The event concludes Sept. 8.

The Holy Father, through his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has sent a telegram to participants, expressing the hope that «the fraternal encounter and discussions of these days may favor mutual knowledge and the sharing of faith, arousing and renewing a joint commitment to protect God’s gift of creation.»

Man as custodians but also guests of creation was a theme developed today by Father Enzo Bianchi, prior of the monastic community of Bose, and by His Eminence Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamo, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. The congress is being attended by representatives from the Orthodox Churches and from the Catholic Church. Catholic representatives include Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, vice dean of the College of Cardinals; Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, and Bishop Mansueto Bianchi of Pistoia, Italy, president of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Italian Episcopal Conference. Also present will be representatives from the Church of England and from the Reform Churches, the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as theologians and academics from all over the world.

«During the four days of meetings and debates, which are open to the public, speakers will examine the theological and spiritual dimensions of man’s relationship with his environment, seeking values capable of inspiring responsible choices in the face of the ecological crisis, which has been provoked by man himself and is causing irreversible damage to life on our planet,» a communique explained.

Orthodox Church teaching on ecological matters will be presented by Bishop Amvrosij, rector of the Theological Academy of Saint Petersburg, while the scholars John Behr of New York, Nestor Kavvadas of Tubingen and Assaad Elias Kattan of Munster will speak on such subjects as: the goodness of creation according to biblical narrative, the relationship between wounded and healed nature and the history of salvation, and the understanding of the relationship between human beings and the creation in the Fathers of the Church from Irenaeus of Lyons to Maximus the Confessor.

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