International news

 — Mar. 31, 200231 mars 2002

In this address to Hindu faithful on the feast of Diwali, the
president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue proposed education in
dialogue as a means for peace in the future. “War and violence in the name of
religion are contrary to the true spirit of religion and can endanger its very
existence,” Cardinal Francis Arinze said. The feast of Diwali, known also as
namely, of the oil lamps, is based on an ancient myth that represents
the victory of truth over falsehood, of light over darkness, or life over death, and of
good over evil. The Hindu celebration starts Nov. 14 and lasts three days, marking the
beginning of a new year, family reconciliation; and the adoration of God.

In an October 23 joint statement, the cosponsors of the U.S. Southern
Baptist-Catholic Conversation
have announced the termination of their formal
conversations. The Catholic co-sponsor, the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and
Interreligious Affairs
, said the decision to end the conversations was made by the North
American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention
, co-sponsor on the Baptist
side. The committee said it “regretfully concurred in this decision” and
“will remain open to conversation should the occasion arise in the future.”

The Orthodox Church was represented at the October 6-12 Synod of Roman Catholic
by Metropolitan Ambrose of Oulu, Finland and Bishop Emmanuel, auxiliary
of the diocese of Belgium. This “fraternal delegation” was sent to Rome by the
ecumenical patriarchate in response to the invitation of Pope John Paul II.
Metropolitan Ambrose read a message from the ecumenical patriarch. Bartholomew I,
“first among equals” in the Orthodox episcopate, which underlined the importance
of the theme of the Roman Synod: “The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ for the Hope of the World.
” Speaking personally later to the Catholic
bishops who had gathered from all around the world, the Metropolitan assured them that
their concerns about mission and witness to the gospel in the 21st century were also
shared by Orthodox bishops, “These same challenges face the Orthodox Church,” he
said. “We share your hardships and your joys in the service of Christ,” he

Differing views of ordained ministry present the main obstacle to ecumenical
between Catholics and Protestants, according to participants in a
conference in Rome. Sponsored by the Benedictine St. Anselm University and the Waldensian
theological school in Rome, the conference focused on how the sacraments are understood by
Catholics and Protestants. Attended by scholars from around the world, the event coincided
with the two-year anniversary of the signing of a joint declaration by Catholic and
Lutheran leaders on the doctrine of justification, the theological understanding of how
people are saved.

Donations are coming in for rebuilding St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
which was located in New York’s business section, close to the World Trade Centre.
Bartholomew I announced on Sept. 22 that the ecumenical patriarchate was contributing
$ 50,000; the Southern Italian Town of Bari, where the relics of St. Nicholas have been
kept since the end of the 11th century, plans to contribute $ 500,000. The gesture of the
American Jewish Congress, to give $ 10,000 was greeted by Archbishop Dimitiri of New York,
head of the Greek Archdiocese of the ecumenical patriarchate for the United States, as
“a real gift from the heart.” He also thanked the town and the residents of
Bari. Many private donations have also been made. Founded by Greek immigrants in 1916 in a
small 19th century building, St. Nicholas Church was completely destroyed in the 11th
September collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre.

The 61st Meeting the North American Orthodox Catholic Theological Consultation
took place at St. Paul’s College in Washington, Oct. 11-13, under the co-presidency of
Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee on the Catholic side and Metropolitan Maxim of
Pittsburg for the Orthodox. The group continued its study, begun in 1999, of the problems
surrounding the addition of the Filioque clause to the Nicene Creed. Fr. Brian, a
Jesuit theologian, and Orthodox priest Fr. Alexender Colitsin spoke on the Trinitarian
theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria. Fr. Ronald Roberson of St. Paul’s College explored
Trinitarian doctrine in the writings of the American Jesuit theologian Edward Kilmartin
and Fr. Nicolas Apostola approached the same subject in the work of the Romanian Orthodox
theologian, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae. Two summaries of the historical and theological aspects
of the Filioque from the Catholic and Orthodox points of view were responded to
by Fr. Peter Galadza and Susan Ashbrook Harvey. The members were also updated on recent
events in the life of the two churches. The North American Orthodox-Catholic
Theological Consultation
, begun in 1965, is sponsored by the Catholic bishops’
conferences of the U.S. and Canada and by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox
Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).

Olivier Clement, French Orthodox historian and theologian, was awarded
the Logos-Eikon Prize by the Ezio Aletti Centre of Rome on his 80th birthday last Nov. 16
in honour of the whole body of his work. Since its foundation in 1993, the Aletti Centre
has worked to promote encounter and dialogue between eastern and western Christians.
During this same reception, held in the Paris offices of the apostolic nuncio, Olivier
Clement received an honorary doctorate from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, USA.
His words of acknowledgement contained a moving appeal for unity among Christians:
“We must give a common witness to this God who opens himself to us and bears within
himself the mystery of the other, this God of freedom and of service, this God who, in
becoming one of us, triumphs over death and hell.”

A consultation of Orthodox women was held in Geneva last October 11-16
on the theme “Being the Church — Women’s Voices and Visions”. This
meeting was organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) to obtain the point of view
of Orthodox women on how to follow up the thinking and activities that took place during
the 1988-1998 Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. More specifically, their
reaction to a working paper on this subject was sought so that they could help to complete
or modify from the Orthodox perspective. Orthodox women theologians and others committed
to church work came from France, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Romania, the
Middle East, the United States and Australia to take part in the consultation.

“The Family in Post-Atheistic Societies” was the theme of an
international Symposium held Sept. 29-Oct. 6 at the Kiev Theological Academy and the
Mohyla Academy. Held under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the event
brought together about 150 participants coming from the Ukraine, Russia, Byelorussia,
France, Italy and Greece. Theologians, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists and
historians spent the week analyzing the often-dramatic circumstances of family life in
Eastern Europe and also in the West. Among the Orthodox speakers were Constantine Sigov,
director of the European Centre of Human Sciences in Kiev, Fr. Hilarion Alfeiev, in charge
of InterChristian relations for the Moscou patriarchate; Antoine Arjakovsky of the French
embassy in Kiev, and others. Present on the Catholic Side were Mgr. Nicolas Eterovitch,
apostolic nuncio in the Ukraine and Mgr. Pierre Duprey, former secretary of the Pontifical
Council for Christian Unity.

George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world’s
70 million Anglicans, has announced his plans to retire. He will leave his post in
October, just before his 67th birthday, after responding to Queen Elisabeth’s request that
he help to organize the jubilee marking the 50th anniversary of her reign. Bishops in the
Anglican Church can retire after the age of 65. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury
since 1991, has seen the demands on this presiding office within the Anglican Communion
increase to a level unknown to his predecessors. A great deal of his time has been spent
diffusing potential divisions within the Anglican Communion. Three years into his mandate
the first women priests were ordained within the Church of England — an action he greatly
supported. This church and the Anglican Communion must still resolve the issue of
homosexuality. George Carey has clearly stated his opposition to the ordination of

At its third session, held in Hungary last November, the Special Commission on
Orthodox Participation
in World Council of Churches took an
important decision when it endorsed consensus as the most appropriate mode of decision
making for WCC directoral bodies. The consensus method is understood as a means of
discerning the prevailing opinion in a meeting without having recourse to a vote. The
Special Commission was created at the WCC’s 8th Assembly in 1998 to respond to concerns
expressed by the Orthodox and the non-Chalcedonian Oriental Orthodox churches regarding
certain developments within the WCC. The final report of the Special Commission will be
prepared at a plenary session in Helsinki, Finland from May 27 to June 2 for presentation
at the August 26 to 3 September meeting of the WCC central committee in Geneva.

A step toward the reunion of the Church of England and the Methodist Church,
which split in the latter part of the 18th century has been put before the two churches
for their consideration over the next year, with ratification hoped for in the summer of
2003. The proposal calls for the two churches to into a covenant in which each would
recognize the other as a true church — part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic
church affirmed in the Nicene Creed — and would recognize each other’s baptism,
eucharist, and ministry. If the proposal is accepted, the two churches could then consider
moving forward to full communion, with interchangeability of ministers, and ultimately to
full visible unity.

During a January 11-14 visit to Iran, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I,
Spiritual leader of the Orthodox, called for dialogue among Muslims and Christians.
“We should listen to other people with care and sincerity, and with a readiness for
undeerstanding and broad agreement, without arrogance or fanaticism, so that this dialogue
may overcome prejudice and everything which impedes peaceful coexistence,” said the
patriarch, who is traditionally regarded as “first among equals” among the
world’s Orthodox leaders. Bartholomew’s visit was the first by an Orthodox patriarch since
the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. He met with Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and
with the republic’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. President Khatami issued a
call to interreligious dialogue and encouraged all believers to “observe the messages
of prophets and encourage religious values in order to remove discrimination, injustice
and threats to civilization.”

The annual meeting of the Joint Commission of the Conference of European
(KEK) and the Council of the Catholic Episcopal Conferences of Europe
(CCEE) held at the end of January in Ottmaring, Germany made a preliminary evaluation of
the discussions, meetings and ecumenical plans that have materialized in Europe, in the
wake of the Ecumenical Charter which was published in Strasbourg, France last year. The
Joint Commission also studied the possibility of calling a third European ecumenical
assembly to follow those held at Basle (1989) and Graz (1997). The participants also heard
a reports on the activities of the Islam in Europe Commission and of the Muslim-Christian
meeting which took place in Sarajevo last Sept. 12-16.

A recent Vatican document says Christianity cannot be fully understood without
reflecting on divine revelation as contained in the Jewish Bible. The 200-page study,
entitled “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian
, was published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission. The new publication
“hopes to foster love toward the Jews in the Church of Christ,” following the
“abominable crimes” of which they were object during World War II. In
“light of the Scripture, the rupture between the Church of Christ and the Jewish
people should not have happened,” the document affirms. It states that the New
Testament recognizes the authority of the Old Testament as divine revelation, and cannot
be understood without being intimately related to it and with the Jewish tradition that
transmitted it.

A working group on the “Decade to Overcome Violence” (DOV)
met in Geneva Jan 25-27 to draw up a study guide on the theme of the Decade for use in the
churches. The study guide will center around four main themes, identified through a
2000-2001 survey of the churches as the underlying causes of violence; the nature of
violence, the misuse of power, questions of justice, religious pluralism and identity.
“These themes are not only for theoretical study; they are the lenses enabling the
churches to focus on the challenges they must face in struggling to overcome violence and
to identify lasting and constructive solutions,” said DOV coordinator Deenabandhu
Manchala. The idea of a Decade to Overcome violence was launched at the 8th Assembly of
the World Council of Churches held at Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998. Officially opened in
February 2001, the Decade (2002-2010) wants to add its contribution to the initiatives
taking place around the world toward a non-violent lifestyle. For information: Diana
Mavunduse, DOV Communications, tel. (+41 22)791 67 01 or Karin Achtelstetter, Media
Relations, tel. (+41 22) 791 61 53. Cell Phone (+41) 79 284 52 12.

One in four adults who surf the Internet are looking for religious and
spiritual material, according to a new survey released in the U.S. Dec 23 by the Pew
Internet & American Life Project
. The telephone poll of 500 Internet users found
more people seeking spirituality on the Web than a year ago — 28 million, up from 20
million last year. The vast majority of religion surfers — 84 percent — already belong
to a house of worship and are more involved in regular worship than the general
population. Sixty-nine percent said they were looking for reference materials to enhance
their own religious knowledge.

A Day of Christian Communication was celebrated in France, Feb. 1-7.
The initiative enabled Catholic and Protestant movements, services and communities to
display their recent endeavors in the field of communication, ranging from church
bulletins to the Internet. The Web page
includes meditations and documents on the media.

Almost twice as many Americans view Muslims favourably rather than
unfavourably according to an ABC News/Beliefnet poll. The national telephone poll of 1,023
adults found 57% of people saying that Islam teaches peace, not violence. Even though 61 %
of Americans said they know little about the fast growing religion, 42% believe Islam
teaches respect for non-Muslims, compared to 22% who say it does not. Negative impressions
have also been dropping, from 39 % in October to 24 % in December.

An Orthodox, Helen Huszagh, is the new President of the U.S. Council
of Churches, an ecumenical organization which brings together the Anglican, Protestant and
Orthodox churches of this country. The first Orthodox woman to hold this post, Mrs.
Huszagh is 64 years old, a lawyer for a Chicago business who served for many years on the
council of the U.S. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Her installation took place in a service
at the Orthodox Cathedral of Oakland, California.

Some 70,000 young Anglicans, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox from
many European countries came together in Budapest, Hungrary, Dec. 28, 2001- Jan.1, 2002
for the 24th European Meeting of Youth organized by the ecumenical community of Taizé.
The theme of the meeting was “Spiritual Life and Social Responsibility.” Youth
from central and eastern Europe spoke out during the various activities such as prayer
sessions and forums, which were held in the city’s churches and in the fairgrounds
transformed into a prayer site. This is where the participants met at the end of each day
to offer a common prayer interspersed with the reflections of Brother Roger, founder of
the Taizé Community. World leaders who sent messages to this meeting included the
Patriarch of Moscow, Alexis II; Pope John Paul II; the Archbishop of Canterbuty,
George Carey and the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

A research report from the Columbia University National Center on Addiction
Abuse found a greater tendency to shun drugs and alcohol among people
who attend worship regularly and among those who personally consider religious belief
important — whether or not they are regular worshippers. Adults who never attended
religious services were more than five times likelier to have used illicit drugs and
nearly seven times likelier to have engaged in binge drinking. Among teens, those who
never attended worship were twice as likely to drink and smoke as those who were regular
worshippers. The study speculated that religion might have a positive impact by specific
teaching against using drugs and alcohol, by providing a “sense of acceptance and
belonging” or by providing hope for the future. The report recommended increased
training to help religious professionals recognize signs of abuse and make appropriate
referrals and urged clergy to speak more from the pulpit about the problem.

An interfaith meeting in Brussels, Dec.19-20, 2001 was attended by
representatives of the three monotheistic religions coming from Europe, the Middle East
and the Maghreb region of Africa. Organized by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
and Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, the event testified to a common
desire among the members of all three religions to live in peace with each other in a
spirit of harmony. Three plenary sessions dealt with: “The Religious Principles
of Peaceful Coexistence,” “Historical Models of Peaceful Coexistence”
and “Religious Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence”. The speakers were:
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of Great Britain; the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey;
Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, president of the Turkish Department of Religious Affairs; Archbishop
Anastasius of Tirana, primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church; Mohammed Masjed, Iranian
minister of foreign affairs; Chief Rabbi Paul Chaime Eisenberg of Vienna; Rabbi Arthur
Schneier of New York and the Armenian Catholicos of Celicia, Aram I. An agreed
statement prepared by an editorial committee was to be adopted at the end of working

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