Address of H.B. Christodoulos, the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece,
to the Members of the Presidium of the Conference of European Churches
Your Eminence, Distinguished Members of the Presidium of the Conference of European Churches,
It is a great pleasure for me to receive you here today in the Archdiocese of Athens, Primatial See of the Church of Greece, which has the pleasure of hosting the Meeting of the Presidium of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) now in progress. I am most happy to see all of you, especially my dear brother in Christ, Metropolitan Jeremie, President of CEC, and to take this opportunity to congratulate him in person upon his recent appointment as Metropolitan of Switzerland.
It is indeed significant that this Meeting, the last CEC Presidium Meeting before the next General Assembly, is taking place here in Athens, and within the ecclesiastical boundaries of the Church of Greece, the first European Church to be established by the Apostle St. Paul. Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens of course, Corinth and Nicopolis, all cities evangelized by St. Paul, fall within its jurisdiction. Thus the CEC is meeting in the first European Church and indeed at a time when Europe is undergoing a new structuring and is in the process of drawing up a Constitution for the European Union. The Pauline venue of your meeting, I believe, constitutes a challenge for the Member-Churches of CEC to re-evangelize the European Continent and to proclaim the uniqueness of Salvation in Christ, as did St. Paul two thousand years ago.
Moreover, CEC must summon its Member-Churches, especially those residing within the European Union, to exert a united and coordinated effort to preserve the Christian character of Europe’s roots and culture and to influence the drafters of its new Constitution to make specific mention of Europe’s Christian legacy. I realize this is not an easy task, and the way things seem to be developing, we may have to be content with a general reference to the importance of religious principles and values. We must not, however, cease striving towards this end. The proposal made by CEC’s Central Committee at its Meeting in Morges (3-9 June 2002) to urge the “Convention on the Future of Europe” to recognize Europe’s Churches as “dialogue partners”, if accepted by the Convention, could serve as spring-board for arguing the Churches’ case on this issue.
I am aware that your Meeting will be mainly concerned with preparing the forth-coming Assembly, an Assembly in which our Church’s Delegation has already begun to prepare. And indeed it would be most helpful if we could have the final draft of the Assembly’s Working Paper. Despite our repeated requests, we have not as yet received it.
Of course we are most happy that one of our faithful, Mrs Aikaterini Zorba, has been proposed to serve as Co-Moderator of the Assembly. Mrs. Zorba’s participation as Vice-Moderator of the Trondheim Assembly also highlights the importance of our Church’s decision, taken recently, to establish a Special Synodal Committee dealing with the participation of Women in the life and broader activities of the Church.
Reviewing the Draft of the Assembly Agenda, I notice that item no.9 foresees the possibility of the Central Committee’s proposing an amendment/addition to the Standing Orders of the Assembly on consensus decision-making. As pointed out in Metropolitan Jeremie’s letter of 22nd January 2003, the issue of consensus decision-making was touched upon and discussed extensively at CEC’s Central Committee Meeting in Morges, quite independently from the proposal on this methodology presented by WCC’s Special Committee to that body’s Central Committee which opted at its August Meeting for its application during the interim period preceding the next General Assembly in Brazil (2006). It is our hope and prayer that CEC will also adopt this process, and indeed at its forthcoming 12th General Assembly.
We know that voices of opposition have been raised in certain quarters; arguments have been brought forth to the effect that consensus decision-making will cause “conflictive themes to be avoided and courageous or even provocative political and theological positions to be excluded” (EKD Bulletin, No 4/ 2002, p. 19). We believe that these fears are unfounded. The Ecumenical Organizations, such as CEC and WCC, will still maintain, if not increase, there importance as a fora for serious discussions and free exchange of opinions and positions, and as bodies promoting and facilitating ecumenical collaboration. Not only will the work of the Ecumenical Organizations applying this methodology not be hampered but it will also be further strengthened. More important, it will be more readily accepted on the grass roots-level, thus making our constituency more open to ecumenical cooperation.
We also hope that the Assembly’s Policy Reference Committee will continue the important work being carried on by its various Commissions, especially in the challenging but highly delicate field of Bioethics to which our Church attaches particular importance. We cannot hide our concern over recent reports about medical laboratories of dubious scientific standing and in close collaboration with heretical sects experimenting in, and achieving the cloning of humans. The Churches must join in exerting pressure upon those agencies competent and responsible so as to respect the sacredness of life and to ensure that the integrity of the human person ever remains inviolate. No one has the right to tamper with God’s law and with the moral principles of medical and scientific ethics.
And while on the topic of the integrity of the human person, we cannot overlook the important work being done, in collaboration with CCME concerning the problems of Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Europe. In my Address to a special Conference organized jointly by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece and CCME, held immediately before the opening of the CCME’s General Assembly, hosted by our Church in Athens (November 2002), I touched upon various aspects of these problems and the challenges they present to the Churches, but also to our Country as well, in light of its assumption of the European Union Presidency.
Also of significant importance is the Environmental work being carried by CEC and especially its work in advancing sustainable development. This work is being promoted by also by the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN). To this end the Church of Greece will support this effort through its participation in the forthcoming Conference of the ECEN, which will take place in Volos in May 2003. As we have pointed out in our reply to the WCC concerning the content of the Appeal it prepared in solidarity with those most affected by Climate Change for the Johannesburg Environmental Meeting, while our Church basically agrees with the content of this important text, it voices a certain reservation concerning the proposal that developed countries gradually reduce their omission of greenhouse gases in the name of “Contraction and Convergence” while developing countries increase theirs. It is the opinion of the Holy Synod of our Church that this should not be the aim of Climate Change control, but rather that air-polluting sources of energy be completely replaced with energy sources that do not pollute the atmosphere and the environment.
As concerns the new strategies and new-life styles proposed by the CEC, we feel that the ascetic dimension of Orthodox spirituality can greatly contribute to “our living more simply that others may simply live”. We are indeed happy that CEC is devoting serious attention to this extremely important issue, an issue that the Churches must face with the utmost seriousness and responsibility.
Finally, the theme “Jesus Christ heals and reconciles-The Churches’ Witness in Europe” is a very timely one. Churches within a Continent that is uniting cannot afford the luxury of division. We, too, must strive to increase our efforts towards promoting unity, not only by strengthening our collaboration on social, political and moral issues, but also by giving greater emphasis to the study of theological issues and principles, both those that unite and those that divide us with a view not only to achieve a “common Christian voice” but also to strengthen our solidarity and overcome existing obstacles to the path leading to unity.
In concluding, may I be so bold as to suggest, by way of confirming Central Committee’s decision to support the initiative for an “Olympic Truce” or Ekecheria for the duration of the 2004 Olympics, that the CEC Presidium, taking advantage of its presence here in Athens, sign, as a symbolic act, the Book of endorsement. Ultimately, we hope that the Trondheim Assembly will also endorse the Truce, thereby lending its weight to the implementation of such a cessation of hostilities throughout the world. As you know, the Ekecheria was a truce that was enforced by all the ancient Greek city-states during the entire duration of the Olympic Games. It is a beautiful and historical tradition. If the European Churches in Assembly lend their support, they can help to make it established practice. We hope that God so blesses it that it may extend well beyond the Olympic Games and have lasting consequences.
We pray that our Lord will guide you in your deliberations and that the Presidium’s decisions will leave a beneficial and lasting mark on the life of the European Churches. Rest assured that the Church of Greece completely supports the work of CEC, as it is being carried on its Assemblies, its Committees and its Working Groups.-