Cardinal Urges Clarity in Ecumenical Dialogue

Outlines Four Priorities for Seeking Unity

LONDON, FEB. 25, 2008 ( Setting a clear agenda for dialogue that identifies the type of unity churches are looking for is one of the four priorities for ecumenism set out by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard at a meeting of European religious leaders.

The annual meeting of the Joint Committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) was held Feb. 21-24 in London. The committee met to evaluate the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly held Sept. 4-9 in Sibiu, Romania.

Cardinal Ricard, the vice-president of CCEE and archbishop of Bordeaux, said the committee needs to be increasingly clear on the objectives of the ecumenical engagement. He posed the question, “What kind of unity are we looking for?”

Other priorities include the need to enlarge the experience of ecumenical fellowship, especially among youth; to be more present where “the humanity of the human being” is at stake; and to develop a spiritual ecumenism, “particularly at a time where we risk being discouraged by the slowness of ecumenical progress and by apparent stepping backward.”

The president of CEC, Reverend Jean-Arnold de Clermont, underlined in his opening remarks three challenges for the ecumenical movement: first of all globalization, which urges us to “enlarge the ecumenical awareness of the members of our churches.”

The second challenge is the secularization of our continent, and the third is the need to rethink the structures of ecumenical cooperation between the Churches in Europe in view of a renewed common witness, offering “a strong signal that the Churches are willing to change.”

Common home

In a press statement, the joint committee reported that the meeting gave a largely positive evaluation of the Sibiu event: “In the present ecumenical situation, the Sibiu assembly has shown that European Christians are engaged in common witness at various levels, and that they can contribute in an original way to the building of the common European home.”

The meeting also concluded that the assembly in Sibiu “demonstrated that it is possible to speak about differences and still existing divisions in all frankness and fraternity.”

The committee said further cooperation between CEC and CCEE will be along the themes of promoting the knowledge of the Bible in Europe, interreligious dialogue, the integrity of creation, migration and peace.

Also addressed was the finalization of the agenda for a CCEE-CEC committee for relations with Muslims in Europe. The committee will host Oct. 20-23 in Belgium a conference on Muslim-Christian relations titled “Being a Citizen of Europe and a Person of Faith: Christians and Muslims as Active Partners in European Societies.”

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