Photo: © John Mindala
Press Release No: 16/21
28 June 2016
*Please note that text in italics are quotations from official documents of the Holy and Great Council
The Conference of European Churches commends its Orthodox Member Churches for the successful proceedings of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, held on 20 to 25 June in Crete. The Council was an expression of Church unity, and thus of great ecumenical significance.
The Holy and Great Council was the culmination of a century-long process, closely linked with the development of the modern ecumenical movement. The Orthodox church leaders who in the beginning of the 20th century initiated the discussions leading to the Great Council were also among the pioneers of dialogue and cooperation among all Christian churches.
“The Great Council is a remarkable achievement and a sign of God’s providence, considering the dramatic times of turmoil and persecution that the Orthodox Chruch has survived during the past 100 years,” reflected CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen. “Even now, political conflict and persecution of Christians were acutely present in the background of the Council.”
The Holy and Great Council constituted an authentic witness to faith in Christ,announcing the Gospel of faith, hope and love, looking forward to that “day without evening, without succession and without end.” It articulated clearly the Orthodox understanding of the Church, herself a Council, established by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, and it reminded that the Church lives not for herself. She offers herself for the whole of humanity in order to raise up and renew the world into new heavens and a new earth.
Ecclesiology, the theology of the church, is one of the spiritual gifts the Orthodox Church brings to the Ecumenical movement. Ecclesiological clarity, as in the approved documents of the Holy and Great Council, helps to approach the remaining challenges in inter-Christian doctrinal dialogue in an open and truthful way. The Conference of European Churches has defined ecclesiology as one of its priority areas. CEC serves its Member Churches to envision how to relate the faith in the One Church of Christ to the reality of multiple Christian communions and how to re-define the mission of the Church in a changing global context.
The Holy and Great Council stated that the life of Christians is a truthful witness to the renewal in Christ of all things. The ecological crisis was identified as one of the most crucial areas for the cooperation of all humanity. The Great Council reminded that the roots of the ecological crisis are spiritual and ethical. It is provoked by human passions—such as greed, avarice, egotism and the insatiable desire for more—and by their consequences for the planet, as with climate change, which now threatens to a large extent the natural environment, our common ‘home’.
The Holy and Great Council gave serious consideration to the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism, both within the Orthodox Church and in other communities. It stated that the explosions of fundamentalism within religious communities threaten to create the view that fundamentalism belongs to the essence of the phenomenon of religion. The truth, however, is that fundamentalism, as “zeal not based on knowledge,” constitutes an expression of morbid religiosity.
The Holy and Great Council urged that the oil of religious experience must be used to heal wounds and not to rekindle the fire of military conflicts. The council stated that honest interfaith dialogue contributes to the development of mutual trust and to the promotion of peace and reconciliation.
CEC President Rt Rev. Christopher Hill KCVO, DD was an Official Observer to the Council. “It was a remarkable experience to accompany the Orthodox Churches—sadly with some Churches not participating at the very last moment—as they openly debated and discussed the mission of the Orthodox Church today. The major achievement of the Council is to put on the Orthodox agenda a continuing dialogue with the modern world in both faithfulness to tradition and also openness to new ways of expressing the Gospel in cultures very different from that of the older heartlands of Orthodoxy. The reception of the Council will mean a lively debate and the other Member Churches of CEC will be supporting the Orthodox Churches by our interest and prayers.”
The Conference of European Churches is encouraged in its work by the the Holy and Great Council, which has opened the horizon towards the contemporary diverse and multifarious world. It has emphasised our responsibility in place and in time, ever with the perspective of eternity.
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