The Orthodox confessional meeting, held on the first day of the Novi Sad General Assembly of CEC, brought together some sixty people from Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, who were taking part in the Assembly. There were delegates, members of CEC Governing Board, the Thematic Reference Groups, staff and stewards.
The meeting was chaired by Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia (Ecumenical Patriarchate), who invited the participants to reflect together on the challenges they are facing today in the modern world, which can only be addressed if they are unanimously agreed. Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn (Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church) referred to the documents of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church as being the crux for our witness of the world. He also mentioned that despite all the struggles and discussions at the Council around the document “Relation of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world” the fact remains that we are here in Novi Sad at the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches, and that “whoever was against is here …and that we finally have a common witness”.
His Eminence Metropolitan Gabriel of Nea Ionia and Filadelfia (Church of Greece) gave a report on the Inter-Orthodox Pre-Assembly consultation in Paris on 19 April 2018, and its communique. The communique states that “The care for the human person, human dignity and the protection of human rights for refugees and migrants remains the central issue for the Orthodox Churches, as well as the work done in the integration process.” According to Metropolitan Gabriel, that is our starting point for discussing witness, justice and hospitality at the General Assembly.
His Eminence Bishop Porphyrios of Neapolis (Church of Cyprus) expressed satisfaction that the General Assembly of CEC is being held in an Orthodox country for the first time since 1979, which will provide a chance to raise the issue of Kosovo again. He echoed His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, who spoke earlier in the opening plenary and urged European churches to raise their voices in solidarity with those who had been displaced from their homes.
His Eminence Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana, representing the host Serbian Orthodox Church, also stressed the huge importance of unity and koinonia. This should be the message and witness of the Church to a world deeply submerged in individualism: “The Church is community in her nature; we can witness to the world of this community|. The Church is community and it is open to discussion on the issues of the modern world.”
His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and His Eminence Archbishop Yeznik Petrosyan of the Armenian Apostolic Church updated the participants on progress in the dialogue between the two families of Orthodox Churches. Archbishop Yeznik admitted, “We are living in the twenty-first century, and we are divided because of something that happened in the fifth century… I believe that our different understandings of the nature of Christ should not be an obstacle to the unity of the Churches.”
Metropolitan Emmanuel, who is co-chair of the dialogue with oriental Orthodox Churches, also expressed his conviction that it is one of the most encouraging amongst theological dialogues and certainly has a future.