International news

 — Sept. 30, 200530 sept. 2005

On 25 August, 2002, the Faith and Order Commission celebrated 75 years of work
since the first world conference on Faith and Order in Lausanne (1927). The celebration in
the Lausanne cathedral invited participants to remember and reappropriate the insights of
the 1927 founding assembly. The Lausanne conference identified central aspects of
Christian faith that churches should affirm together as well as questions which divide the
churches and on which they needed to reach agreement. Over the years, many agreements have
been reached, perhaps the best of which is that on baptism, Eucharist and ministry. As a
continuation of this work, a new study of the nature of the church is underway.

The need for guidelines for participation in national and international
interreligious initiatives
was discussed at a meeting in Hong Kong, 8-12 April.
At the meeting, about 25 participants from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and
Sikh religions considered all the initiatives as positive signs of the growing awareness
of the need for interfaith cooperation and dialogue, but cautioned that religious leaders
need to closely examine the context, purposes and framework for participation before
joining specific initiatives. The need to consider a “wider ecumenism” as
encompassing relations with other faith communities was advanced as one challenge.
Perhaps, as one participant put it, we are at a place where the Lund principle of
ecumenism — “that which we can do together, we should not do separately” — should apply to interfaith relations as well.

An international consultation on Mission and Evangelism, organized by
the World Council of Churches, was held in Breklum, Germany, June 25-July 2. On the theme
of “Believing without belonging? In search of new paradigms of church and mission in
secularized and post-modern contexts,” missiologists from all regions of the world
looked at new situations and challenges to church and mission. World mission conferences
are held every 7-8 years. The upcoming 2005 conference will focus on churches as
reconciling and healing communities amidst multifaceted and changing contexts in a violent
and globalized world.

Leaders of three Dutch churches have set 2004 as the deadline for the
union of the Netherlands Reformed Church, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The three churches already
form a federation, but their merger will create a single Protestant Church with a
membership of 2.7 million.

Lutheran and Reformed Churches in France will carry out a joint study
on whether to accord a church blessing to homosexual couples and access to the pastoral
ministry to openly homosexual persons. These questions came up at the same time in both
churches, which already enjoy a mutual recognition of ministers. The French Lutheran and
Reformed Churches will move forward cautiously in the study of this “delicate and
passionate” question with debates and discussions at local, regional and national
levels until 2005 when decisions will begin to be taken. Since November 1999, French law
allows the possibility of legal recognition for homosexual couples and Protestant churches
are now registering requests for blessings of these couples. The Reformed Church of France
was recently faced with situations concerning the public visibility of homosexual pastors.
For the moment, the Reformed Church is exercising prudence and does not wish to appoint or
to maintain pastors who publicly profess their homosexuality.

The Conference of Protestant Churches of South-European Countries
(CEPPLE) has a new president, Rev. Joel Strondinsky of the Protestant Church of Geneva.
CEPPLE is made up of 25 national churches — Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist
— from Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland. Founded 50 years ago,
it doesn’t replace present Protestant bodies, but acts as a cooperative network in various
fields among the Protestant Churches of southern Europe and holds a general assembly every
four years.

The first encounter of Lutheran Synodal Pastors and Roman Catholic Bishops
was held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in May. The participants agreed to jointly invite the
World Council of Churches (WCC) to hold its Ninth General Assembly in Brazil in the year
2006; to foster participation in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; to promote an
Ecumenical Family Ministry, and to actively engage in the WCC’s Decade to Overcome
Violence initiative.

Germany’s first chair of Islamic theology has been created and is
situated in the new Centre for the Study of Religions at the University of Münster. The
Centre which also offers courses on Judaism and on the Orthodox Churches, marks an
important step forward in the integration and respect of the human rights of Germany’s
600,000 Muslims.

The Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee has published the
findings of a study of working conditions in three factories in China’s Guandong province
which manufacture sports accessories for Adidas, Puma, Wilson, Umbro and Diadora. The
results show a disregard for the minimum wage, excessive working hours, lack of safety
measures, poor living and health conditions and violations of personal liberties.
Indonesians working for Nike or Adidas are no better off and have good reason to fear that
any union activity can result in their being fired, sent to prison or attacked. The Swiss
groups: Lent Action, the Berne Declaration and Bread for Our Neighbour have begun a Clean
Clothes postcard campaign called “Fair Pay — Decent Working Conditions for
All!” The campaign targets FIFA which makes millions from the football industry. It
calls upon FIFA to accept its co-responsibility for the working conditions in the
factories which produce the sports articles that carry the FIFA brand, to adopt a complete
business ethics code and undertake all necessary measures to insure its application. To
order FAIR-PAY postcards: .

The campaign to reinstate the ancient Greek custom of a truce during
the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, begun last November, has already been signed by the
ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew of Constantinople, by the patriarchs of Alexandria,
Antioch, Georgia and Serbia and by many other Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders. It
adds its support to efforts already underway for a cease-fire during the Games. In May
2002, Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Christodoulos, leader of the Orthodox Church in
Greece, signed a joint statement adding their voices “to the voices of many in the
world who hope to revive the ancient Greek tradition of an Olympic truce.” The appeal
has been signed by over 60 first ministers, foreign ministers and government officials.
According to the website of the Centre for an Olympic Truce, Israel and the Palestinian
Authority have agreed to keep the truce; India and Pakistan have also been approached by
the Greek government.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I received, June 10, the 2002 prize
from the Norwegian Sophia Foundation which annually recognizes an organization or an
individual who has worked for development or in defense of the environment. The prize was
awarded to the Orthodox patriarch for “his efforts to demonstrate the connection
between faith and ecology” and for “his ecumenical, spiritual and practical
guidance for the protection and healing of the earth.”

A new church council for the Alsatian capital of Strasbourg will
function on both an ecumenical and an imterreligious level. In a press release, the
Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican Church leaders stressed that contacts and
closer ties between members of different religions make for a “more neighbourly
lifestyle” in Strasbourg. “Dialogue with other religions is an opportunity as
well as a necessity. If we do it today with respect, justice and understanding, we will
have the chance of new hope for tomorrow.”

The 11th Orthodox Congress of Western Europe will be held Oct.
31-Nov.3 2002, at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in France on the theme: “I believe in One
Church.” The Congress offers an opportunity to the Orthodox who make up small
minorities scattered throughout western Europe and living in isolation from each other to
come together to pray, to reflect and to strengthen the bonds of friendship. Three large
round table discussions, led by priests and theologians from across Europe, will expand
the central theme by exploring: “Orthodoxy, Ecumenism and Religious Fanaticism,”
“The Sacrament of Brotherhood” and “The Structure of our Churches.”
Various workshops will round out the program, treating subjects such as: “Orthodoxy,
Europe and Human Rights,” “Man’s Responsibility Towards Creation,”
“Orthodoxy in Islamic Countries,” “Orthodoxy’s Witness in the Mass
Media,” “The Icon Question,” “Daily Prayer.” Held every these
years since 1971, the Orthodox Congresses of Western Europe bring together bishops and
their clergy and laity from various countries. The last congress, held Oct. 29-Nov.1 1999,
had an attendance of over 850. To contact the preparatory secretariat of the 11th Orthodox
Congress of Western Europe: Hélène Arkhipoff. Tel.: 038078 05 49, E-mail:

The US National Council of Churches is asking its affiliated
congregations to mark the anniversary of Sept. 11 by holding open houses and inviting
Muslim neighbors to attend. It will be a return gesture for what happened last September,
when many U.S. mosques held open houses for non-Muslim neighbours to build understanding.
The Open Doors Interfaith Hospitality Project, developed in consultation with U.S. Muslim
organizations, is being led by the Rev. Jay Rock, the National Council’s interfaith
relations director, and professor Jane Smith of Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. National
Council of Churches open house information:

An exhibition on Anglicanism and its role in the Christian tradition
of the West opened to the public June 4 in the Vatican Museums. Speaking at an opening
ceremony attended by dignitaries from both Churches Cardinal Edmund Szoka called the
exhibition “a fine example of co-operation between Anglican and Roman Catholic
historians and scholars.” Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council
for the Promotion of Christian Unity, called the books, royal seals, chalices, vestments
and panels about Anglican history on display in the Sistine Hall “instruments of
reconciliation.” The exhibition traces Anglicanism from its roots in early
Christianity through King Henry VIII’s break with Rome in 1534 in order to divorce
Catherine of Aragon and his establishment of the Church of England to the role of the
modern-day Anglican communion.

The exercise of papal primacy may become a primary
topic of discussion in international Catholic-Orthodox talks, according to comments made
by Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore after a June 4 plenary address to the sixth
Orientale Lumen conference, held at the Catholic University of America in Washington. The
conference’s theme was Eastern Catholic Churches: Window Between East and West?
“Should we, as Christians, not discuss what primacy really means?” Maronite
Catholic Chorbishop Seely Beggiani said to applause from the 100 in attendance for the

Saying they were saddened by violence, poverty and pollution, Pope John Paul II
and Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
signed a common
declaration on respecting human life and safeguarding all creation. With a live television
hookup linking the two on June 10, the Patriarch signed the document in Venice, and the
Pope signed it at the Vatican. “Our meeting, even if at a distance, allows us to
express together our common will to safeguard creation, to stand alongside of and support
every initiative which can beautify, heal and preserve this land which God has given us to
care for with wisdom and love,” Pope John Paul told the Patriarch.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has voted overwhelmingly to take the
first step toward appointment of women as bishops. Clergy members voted 64-8 for the
motion on June 14, while lay members voted 64-7. The measure now goes for further debate
in the seven dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which is part of the worldwide
Anglican Communion, like the Church of England which does not have women bishops and the
U.S. Episcopal Church, which does.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has called for its members to get to
know Muslims and learn about each other’s faiths. The General Assembly of the
2.5-million-member denomination endorsed a paper, “Striving Together in Dialogue: A
Muslim-Christian Call to Reflection and Action,” that was drafted by Christian and
Muslim religious leaders during a meeting in the Netherlands in late 2000. The paper calls
for “Dialogue to be a process of mutual empowerment of both Christians and Muslims
toward their joint engagement in public concerns and their common pursuit of justice,
peace and constructive action on behalf of the common good of all people …”

Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish religious leaders met at
the Vatican in June to study ways of continuing to work together in the wake of January’s
Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi. The meeting, held at the headquarters of the
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, concluded that dialogue must not be
restricted to events such as that of Assisi. “This collaboration could be made
concrete by forming a body that will offer suggestions to our pontifical council and to
people of different religions, to promote symbolic initiatives in favour of
reconciliation, justice and peace, especially where there is the most suffering,”
said Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the Council.

Hindus and Christians participated in a June symposium in Rome on
“The Way of Love: Union with God and Universal Fraternity in Hinduism and
Christianity.” Professor Kala Acharya, of Bombay’s Somaiya Sanscriti Peetham
University, said that the symposium, organized by the Focolare Movement, “was
special, because it was a spiritual experience, not just an academic event.”
“Chiara Lubich’s personal and spiritual experience has enriched us, because it is
very similar to what our saints have experienced,” she said. Lubich is the founder of
Focolare. Shantilal Somaiya, president of the Institute of Culture and Research of the
University of Bombay, added: “Reciprocal dialogue is the order of the day in the
third millennium. I am convinced that religions will learn to live together, to understand
one another, and to work together in the service of humanity. This is the objective.”

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