Roman Catholic Church

PRESS RELEASE FIFTH EUROPEAN ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC FORUM Paris, France, 9-12 January 2017 “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33)

(Courtesy of the CCEE)

“Catholic and Orthodox Churches proclaim the centrality of the human person and of its dignity created in the image of God. They affirm the dignity of human nature created freely. Human freedom is exercised to the utmost in the act of religious faith. The act of faith must always remain free. The constitutions of our States guarantee the fundamental rights of the human person. Nevertheless, in our societies, forces are always at work to marginalise or even erase religions and their message from the public space. We believe that Europe needs more than ever the breath of faith in Christ and the hope that it provides. Christianity is a marker of identity that does not deny others their human rights, but seeks to cooperate with all for the realisation of the common good. We are well aware that the personalist Christian vision of humanity is a minority view in relation to a dominant discourse that promotes hedonistic individualism, which ignores the notions of objective truth and common good”. This is what the Participants wrote in the message of the Fifth European Orthodox-Catholic Forum approved at the end of the meeting on the theme Europe in fear of the threat from fundamentalist terrorism, and the value of human person and religious freedom. 

The message, in fourteen points, covers some of the issues discussed during the meeting: Human dignity and religious freedom; religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution; fundamentalism and terrorism today; the social cohesion and the phenomenon of fear looking at the mission of the Church; the Churches’ commitment in the handling of conflicts and in the promotion of the common good and solidarity; and finally the proclamation of Jesus Christ as a response to the threat both of fundamentalism and terrorism.

“Secular Europe – participants wrote - is deeply rooted in our Christian traditions, which have provided it with its universalist vision, its notion of the dignity of the human person and its moral principles. If you are cut off from your roots, you will come adrift. The emptiness within especially exposes the youngest people to the worst temptations. We firmly repeat that the Christian faith reconciles all the personal and social dimensions that are found in the human person. This is expressed in the dual commandment to love God and our neighbour, which is the key to mutual acceptance. The love of neighbour comes without condition or demands (cf. Matthew 22 :39). The dialogue of truth between people of different religions or beliefs is the only way out of situations of fear and mutual exclusion. Dialogue teaches us to become more humble. In dialogue with others, we constantly discover unsuspected riches in our common humanity. Thus we are happy to make progress towards a better knowledge and greater love of Him who – to us – is the fulfilment of our humanity: Jesus Christ our Lord, “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14 :6)’’.

The Fifth Forum was held in Paris, the capital of France, from 9 to 12 of January 2017, on the invitation of Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois. Works were lead by the two Co-Presidents of the Forum, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and, on behalf of the Presidium of CCEE, by Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest. 

In addition to the rich work sessions, the participants were able to meet and pray with the respective local Communities: on January, 10 at Saint Stephen Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of France for a prayer (Doxology) hosted by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate), President of the Episcopal Conference of the Orthodox Bishops in France, and on January, 11 at Notre Dame Cathedral for prayers on the occasion of the exposition of the Crown of Thorns, led by Mgr. Jérôme Beau, Auxiliary Bishop of Paris.

During the meeting, the participants have been able to experience the generous hospitality of the Apostolic Nuncio in France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura.

His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a message of greetings and Patriarchal blessings, wishing for the success, the constructive results and the continuation of the Forum. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, Italy, was also present as the new elected President of CCEE.

The First European Orthodox-Catholic Forum was held in 2008 (11-14 December) in Trent, Italy under the theme: The family: a good for humanity; the Second Forum took place on the Greek island of Rhodes, Greece in 2010 (18-22 October) under the theme: Church-State relations; the Third Forum took place in Lisbon, Portugal in 2012 (5-8 June) under the theme: The economic crisis and poverty. Challenges for today’s Europe; and the Fourth Forum was held in Minsk, Belarus in 2014 (2-6 June) under the theme: Religion and cultural diversity: challenges for the Christian Churches in Europe. The Acta of the previous Forums’ Meetings have been published in four volumes by Editrice Dehoniane in the Oggi e Domani series. 

The European Orthodox-Catholic Forum stems from the desire to discuss anthropological, pastoral and cultural issues of crucial importance for the present and future of humanity in Europe and in the entire world with the aim of helping to define common stances on social, political, moral and economical issues and does not tackle theological doctrinal matters, which are treated at other levels. The Forum does not at all substitute the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church which has been at work since 1980. 

Paris, 12 January 2017